Inside the NCRA A to Z® Intro to Steno Machine Shorthand online program

A 2017 survey of NCRA members revealed that 75 percent of the membership has been in the court reporting profession for 16 or more years. In fact, 64 percent have been in the profession for 21-plus years.  With that much tenure, it may be difficult to recall what life was like before court reporting.  In an effort to learn more about the experiences and motivations of the next generation of court reporters, as well as to experience steno firsthand, NCRA Marketing Manager Elisa Cohen recently took the NCRA A to Z® Intro to Steno Machine Shorthand online program.  During the program, three fellow participants who completed it agreed to share their stories:  

  • Jessica Pell, a correctional officer for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, who has four children and an encouraging mother-in-law in the profession;
  • Jeff Spears, a 38-year-old telecommunications technician from Kentucky, who lives in Texas with his wife and two young children; and
  • Arlisia Stansberry, a single mother with an established career as a corporate nurse, who is ready to begin a new career path in the field that has interested her since high school.

Each of these participants decided to investigate a career in court reporting as a result of a recommendation. While serving on a jury in San Antonio, Spears was told of the court reporter shortage from the presiding judge. The suggestion particularly resonated with him. With injuries from his athletic childhood, his earlier landscaping business, and two recent knee surgeries as a result of climbing phone polls for a living, Spears is eager to be able to support his family with a job that isn’t so physically demanding.

Pell learned of the profession, and the A to Z program, from her mother-in-law, who has been a court reporter for more than 10 years. The program reinforced Pell’s interest in the court reporting profession. “It was a lot of fun! I learned so much during a short time and feel I have a strong understanding of the basics,” Pell said about the A to Z program.

Stansberry learned about the A to Z program from one of her former high school classmates, who has been in the court reporting profession more than 20 years. When she was just out of high school, her classmate inspired her to start court reporting school. She took only one level before switching to a nursing career at the suggestion of her mother. “I loved shorthand. Always felt a calling for court reporting. But with young kids, as a single mom, I couldn’t go to school and keep a full-time job,” she explained.

After a full career involving extensive travel as a corporate nurse, Stansberry had an epiphany one late night and pulled out her old green steno machine.

However, the similarities among these participants end when discussing what interests them about the profession.

Pell finds it fun and is interested in learning every aspect of steno. “It’s like learning a language within a language,” she explained.

Spears, who hopes to become an official reporter, feels driven to civil service by his father’s example as a police officer.

And Stansberry? She is fascinated by the ability to type verbatim what is being said: “Amazing to me, just amazing to me, how you put those letters together. I don’t see PL anymore, I see M. It’s just weird.”

When it comes to discussing the obstacles that may lay ahead, the unifying concern among these participants is time. Pell is concerned that her “crazy” work hours as a correctional officer combined with the demands of her four children will get in the way of her practice time. Spears has similar concerns, since he homeschools his children and may get distracted by the needs of his 3- and 8-year-olds. As for Stansberry, her current job requires extensive air travel, which might impact when she will be able to take classes and practice.

We asked each participant what they want to ask of experienced court reporters. Pell is most curious about what can be done when stuck at a speed plateau. Stansberry wants to know how to manage staying awake for hours and keeping calm from some of the things that are said during trials or depositions. And when Spears was asked if he had any questions of experienced court reporters or captioners, he replied: “Holy cow.  I’ve got about 78 of them!”

The good news: After completing the six-week training in the A to Z program, each of these participants are planning to enroll in court reporting school as soon as possible.

The next online A to Z classes start Jan. 27 at 6:30 Eastern; Feb. 10 asynchronous; and April 9 at 8 p.m. Central.

Stenograph partners with NCRF to sponsor new student scholarship

The National Court Reporters Foundation is pleased to announce that nominations are being solicited for Stenograph’s Milton H. Wright Memorial Scholarship, a new scholarship that honors the memory of Milton H. Wright, Stenograph’s founder.   Students from NCRA-approved reporter education programs are encouraged to apply for the merit-based two-year award, which is worth up to $5,000 per year and will include use of a student writer and software.

“Stenograph is proud to sponsor the newly created Milton H. Wright Memorial Scholarship,” said Stenograph President Anir Dutta. “We believe that by investing in our students and future students, through the NCRA’s A to Z Program, that we will positively impact the direction of this industry. It is an honor to be able to give back in this way.” 

This scholarship is offered through the National Court Reporters Foundation. Students must meet the eligibility requirements and submit the completed documentation listed below to qualify for the scholarship. Notification of the MHW Memorial Scholarship is sent each November to all NCRA-approved court reporting programs.

Applications being accepted through Jan. 21, 2020. 

Eligibility

To be eligible to apply for the Milton H. Wright Memorial Scholarship, students must meet the criteria below: 

  • Attend an NCRA-approved court reporting program
  • Have completed an NCRA A to Z ® Intro to Steno Machine Shorthand program
  • Have received an NCRA A to Z ® Certificate of Completion
  • Have attained an exemplary academic record (3.5 GPA or above)
  • Have passed one skills test writing 80-120 words per minute at the time of submission 

Document requirements

The following documents are required to be submitted for application:

  • Speed verification form
  • A copy of the student’s most recent transcript
  • A two-page, double-spaced essay responding to the following question: “Describe the role of technology in the future of reporting.”

Click here for more information or to access the application for the Milton H. Wright Memorial Scholarship.

“Stenograph’s commitment to the future of the court reporting and captioning professions is reflected in the company’s generous support of the Milton H. Wright Memorial Scholarship, and NCRF and NCRA are honored to share this common goal with them,” said NCRA Senior Director of Education and Certification Cynthia Bruce Andrews.  

For more information on the Milton H. Wright Memorial Scholarship, please contact the Education Department at schools@ncra.org

Switching schools, switching careers

Zeke Alicea

Nineteen-year-old Zeke Alicea had a plan for his future that included a four-year degree. He was interested in the legal field, but nothing really clicked until a criminology professor discussed the role of court reporters. Alicea decided to turn in his $50,000/year tuition for a court reporting degree at community college.

UTS | You started your education at Marquette University, in Milwaukee, Wis.,  and then transferred to MacCormac College in Chicago, Ill. Why did you make the switch?

ZA | At Marquette, I was majoring in Clinical Laboratory Science. However, as I went through my first semester, I started to lose interest and look into other majors. I especially had a great interest in criminology. I was thinking I could be a lawyer, detective, forensic scientist, or even a criminologist. One day during one of my criminology lectures, my professor was telling us all the positions in the courtroom. One of them was obviously the court reporter. She told my class how it’s a profitable career and shared some of the skills required for being a court reporter. That was the first time I had ever heard of court reporting, and it immediately piqued my interest. I also noticed that people who are gamers or musicians have a tendency to do well in court reporting school.

Another reason was that I wanted to be back home with my family. Being at Marquette made me miss a lot of my close friends and family, and I like the control that I feel I have at home rather than living in a dorm. I also love being in Chicago since it’s an environment I’ve lived in all my life. Lastly, I made the switch because of the tuition at Marquette. The tuition was around $50,000. Of course, scholarships reduced the cost, but the tuition was still very high. The tuition at MacCormac is comparable to the tuition of a community college in Chicago. It’s very inexpensive at MacCormac, and now I don’t need to worry about finances while in school. 

UTS | Have you met any court reporters or captioners? What have you learned from them?

ZA | I’ve met quite a handful ever since I started school at MacCormac. The nice thing about court reporting is that it’s extremely easy to make connections since there are so few of us. I’ve met higher speed students, working court reporters, and even court reporters who have their own firms. From all the court reporters I have met, I firmly believe that just about anyone can pursue a career in court reporting as long as you have a strong determination. 

UTS |What has surprised you most about learning steno?

ZA | I think it’s really interesting that there are so many different theories for steno. Before I enrolled at MacCormac, I thought that every court reporter wrote shorthand the same way. I quickly learned that was not the case. I know that a lot of older theories would have you stroke out words phonetically, but a lot of the newer theories teach many neat briefs for those multisyllabic words. Another thing I like about steno is sharing my briefs and phrases with higher speed students who have learned a different theory. Occasionally, they will actually like my suggestions and incorporate those briefs in their dictionary. Lastly, I love how individualized it is when it comes to learning steno. One thing I noticed is not everybody strokes things the same way. One of my friends in class uses the “*F” for words that have a “V” in them while I use “-FB.” Furthermore, once you start becoming more settled with your theory, you can even start making up your own briefs and phrases. 

UTS | What is the best advice you’ve been given so far?

ZA | The best advice I have been given is to start building your dictionary as soon as you can. Something about knowing that everything you stroke is going to translate on your real-time software really makes me feel reassured. There are also times when I’ll have a test, and just about everything translates. It’s a really exciting feeling, and it really builds up your confidence in your writing. Another great piece of advice I heard is to look at the person who is speaking when reporting. This might just be more of a personal preference, but I feel more focused when I’m watching the person who’s speaking. 

UTS | If you were to go to a high school career fair to recruit students, what would you say to them about a career in court reporting and captioning? 

ZA | I would tell them that it’s in high demand and that there’s practically 100 percent job availability when you graduate. I would tell them you only need a two-year degree to be a court reporter and that there’s a high earning potential. Their age is the perfect time to get into court reporting since our minds are still developing, so we’re able to absorb information easily. (That will be very handy when learning the ridiculous amounts of phrases and briefs.) I would tell them that having a background in music or video games can help, and even if you’re not into either of those, you can still do well in this field. And lastly, I would tell them how much a fun career in court reporting is. Every day when I’m court reporting, I’m always learning something new, and I always get to hear interesting court stories.

UTS | What is your dream job? Where do you see yourself in five  years?

ZA | My dream job would be, well, a court reporter! I definitely would like to have the opportunity as a court reporter to provide captions for a Cubs game! In five years, I will be with a court reporting firm and downtown (I’m not that into the whole freelance reporting gig), and I would also like to be participating in speed competitions at that time. I would also want to be known as a trustworthy and distinguished court reporter who is very passionate about his job.

MacCormac College’s court reporting program was recently featured on Chicago Tonight, a local PBS program. Watch the news story and a television interview with Alicea here.

Coping with test anxiety

By Kay Moody

“Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to advance.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt, inaugural address, 1933

Students repeatedly say they miss passing a test because of nerves or test anxiety. Almost all court reporters will tell you they experienced nervousness and shaking hands on tests, but they learned how to cope with test anxiety! There are proven relaxation techniques.

  1. EXERCISE: 
    1. Release tension with what’s known as the “tense-relax method.”  Make a fist; clench your fists as hard as you can. Keep them tightly clenched as long as possible. Then relax. For total relaxation, clench your fists, tighten your jaw, straighten your legs, and tense your abdomen all at once—right before a test. Then let go and take a deep breath. 
    2. Do a mini-aerobic workout: 10 jumping jacks, sit-ups, touch your toes, run in place for five minutes, etc. If you have a treadmill, run on it until you’re breathing deeply.
  2. IMAGING: To relieve tension during a test, use guided imagery. Before taking a test, relax completely and take a quick fantasy trip. Close your eyes; relax your body; and imagine yourself in a beautiful, peaceful, pastoral setting. Create as much of the scene as you can. Use all your senses: soft music, a candle, perfume, aroma therapy.
  3. BE POSITIVE: Substitute negative thoughts and emotions with pleasant, positive images: eating a hot fudge sundae, taking a nap on the beach, seeing your best friend, hugging a loved one, having a romantic weekend, etc. Think about these positive images before and during a test. Put a small picture of your favorite fantasy in front of you and look at it during the test. Take the test with a smile on your face. Post a happy emoji on your machine. 
  4. IMPROVE YOUR PHYSICAL WELL-BEING: There are a number of reasons you’re nervous.
    1. Too much caffeine:  coffee, tea, soft drinks, chocolate.
    2. Skipping meals, particularly breakfast. 
    3. Holding your breath. Breathe deeply while working on speed building dictation. When you feel nervous, inhale deeply.
    4. Poor circulation. Drop your head between your knees and stay in that position for a few minutes.
    5. Lack of endorphins. Laughter creates endorphins. Laugh hard.  Laugh out loud or silently. Laugh until your sides ache. Laugh for a couple of minutes.
    6. Cold hands and cold feet. Put on shoes and socks. Cold feet produce shaking hands. Keep both your feet and hands warm. 
    7. Not enough rest. Get a good night’s sleep before test day.
  5. USE VISUALIZING TECHNIQUES:  Feel professional. Dress properly to perform better. If you feel like a professional, it will be easier to imagine that you are a professional court reporter.
  6. KEEP A TEST DIARY: Divide each page into two sections: “Strong Tests” and “Weak Tests.” Keep a journal of what you did prior to the strong tests and/or prior to the weak tests. Indicate the following:
    1. What did you eat or drink before the test? 
    2. Did you have a cigarette right before a test?
    3. What time of day/night did you take the test? Was it at the beginning or end of the week? 
    4. Did you warm up before the test? What material did you use? How fast was your warm-up material?
    5. Did you have a focal point during the test?
    6. Did you practice breathing? visualizing? exercising?
    7. What did you think about during the test?
    8. Were you rested? Did you get a good night’s sleep?

In conclusion, don’t let anxiety prevent you from passing a test. Identify why you’re nervous; apply specific relaxation techniques prior to and during a test; and adjust your surroundings to help you stay calm and focused.

NCRF announces 2019 scholarship and grant recipients

The National Court Reporters Foundation (NCRF) has announced the winners of the 2019 Frank Sarli Memorial Scholarship, the Robert H. Clark Scholarship, and the New Professional Reporter Grant.

Nicole Duzich, from Glendora, Calif., a student at Tri Community Adult Education in Covina, Calif., was named recipient of the 2019 Frank Sarli Memorial Scholarship. The Foundation also announced that Amanda Johnson, from Rathdrum, Idaho, a student at Brown College of Court Reporting in Atlanta, Ga., is the recipient of the Robert H. Clark Scholarship, while Meredith Seymour, from Madison, Wis., an official court reporter for Waukesha County Courthouse, District 3, was named recipient of the 2019 New Professional Reporter Grant. The recipients were selected by random drawing using a true random statistical tool.

Frank Sarli Memorial Scholarship

Nicole Duzich

“This scholarship means so much to me. After finishing my job of six years as a bungee jumping instructor, this scholarship will really be an immense support in helping me finish up school as well as pursue my RPR simultaneously,” said Duzich. “I am really dedicating all I have to practicing and doing what I need to do to get myself graduated and certified. I hope I can not only make my family and friends proud, but myself as well.”

Duzich said she was introduced to a stenograph machine in high school when she saw a captioner providing CART for a student in her class. She said that experience stayed in the back of her mind through college and even after college until a friend of hers began court reporting school. Although her friend didn’t finish, Duzich said she became very interested.

“I received my bachelor’s degree in psychology, got my bartending certification, and have thrown thousands of people off of a bridge, but this career path would prove to get my brain working in ways I wouldn’t have imagined. My obsession with puzzles definitely helped with learning theory, and my competitive spirit helps me with testing. Although failing isn’t particularly my favorite thing to do, I’ve learned to appreciate the pure difficulty of this program and cannot wait to one day look back and see what I have accomplished,” she said. 

Duzich said that her future plans include beginning her professional career taking depositions and then possibly moving into CART captioning. “I live an active lifestyle and love to do many things spontaneously so I think the freelancing will accommodate my schedule and at the same time help me get my feet wet in the profession at my own pace. I am extremely eager and excited to start working in the field that I have dedicated these years of schooling towards,” she added.

The Frank Sarli Memorial Scholarship is a $2,000 award, given annually to a high-achieving court reporting student. This scholarship honors the late Frank Sarli, a court reporter who was committed to supporting students through years of service on NCRA’s committees and boards that guide the education of court reporting students. Recipients are nominated by their schools and must meet specific criteria, including:

  • Having a GPA of at least 3.5
  • Passing at least one of the court reporting program’s Q&A tests at a minimum of 200 wpm
  • Possessing all the qualities exemplified by a professional court reporter, including professional attitude, demeanor, dress, and motivation

Robert H. Clark Scholarship

Amanda Johnson

“This scholarship is such a blessing to me and my family. Receiving this scholarship is going to help ease some of the financial burdens on my family and help me get started in my court reporting career,” said Amanda Johnson. “Money has always been tight, and all I want to do is be the best provider for my family. Receiving this scholarship has really taken quite a bit of stress off my shoulders and will help me continue going forward in my career,” she added. 

Johnson said that the legal system has always been a part of her life given that her father was a police officer for 31 years. “We had the most amazing support system growing up, and it always felt like everyone was part of a big family. I wanted to walk in my father’s footsteps but didn’t feel being an officer was a good fit for me,” Johnson said.

“My grandma was the one who actually mentioned court reporting to me, so when I truly started looking into this career, I knew this was what I wanted to do. It has been quite the ride, but I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. Even when I felt defeated, there was always someone there cheering me on and helping me fight through any and all struggles; I never felt like I was alone. And when it was time for me to start my externship, the amount of joy I felt was unbelievable. Nothing has truly compared to the feeling I felt when going to my first deposition. I still have quite a ways to go before I am officially a court reporter, but I am confident that I will do amazing in this career,” Johnson added. 

Johnson said she plans to take the Washington State exam as soon as she can and will pursue freelance work first. “The reporter I have been shadowing has been so amazing and so supportive. I will most likely be working for her as soon as I receive my license. It’s been a slow process for me due to working a full-time job throughout my schooling, but I am right at the end of it all and will be able to officially say that I am a court reporter real soon.” 

According to her instructor, Julie Morris, director of education at Brown College of Court Reporting, Johnson is a dedicated student who has pressed on despite numerous challenges. “She has managed to keep a solid 3.76 GPA and to soldier on through the plateaus that occur in court reporting school,” Morris said. “As a resident of northern Idaho, her goals are to practice in both Idaho and Washington. She is currently in her externship and is anticipating graduation in the near future. I couldn’t be happier to have nominated Amanda and to see her win this wonderful scholarship!”

The $2,000 Robert H. Clark Scholarship is named for the late Robert H. “Bob” Clark, a court reporter from Los Angeles, Calif., who was dedicated to preserving the history of the profession. Johnson is the fifth recipient of this scholarship.

In 2015, Clark’s family made a generous donation to NCRF to honor him, and NCRF created the Robert H. Clark Scholarship. Students are nominated by instructors or other officials at their schools. To be eligible, nominees must be NCRA members, be enrolled in a court reporting program, must have passed at least one of their program’s Q&A tests at 200 words per minute, and must possess a GPA of at least 3.5 on a 4.0 scale, among other criteria.

The New Professionals Grant

Meredith Seymour

Meredith Seymour said that early on as a student at Lakeshore Technical College, she became very grateful for the generosity and support of NCRF. While working two jobs and attending classes, she shared that there were days when the coursework and practicing became overwhelming. But, she added, meeting fellow NCRA members and receiving support from them at conventions always helped her keep her chin up, especially their encouragement that the time and resources she was investing to pursue a career in court reporting would one day turn into a wonderful profession.

“Receiving this scholarship is a privilege that I am very thankful for. Upon graduating this past December and immediately getting hired as a district reporter for the state of Wisconsin Circuit Court System, I incurred many expenses,” Seymour said. “The grant from NCRA will be put to good use in paying off the debt from purchasing a steno machine, computer, software, and residual student loans.”

Seymour said that court reporting became a second career for her after first working as an American Sign Language interpreter for about four years, and as a captionist using a method called C-Print for deaf and hard-of-hearing students at a regional technical college. After struggling to find gainful employment as an interpreter, she said a former colleague told her about stenography. 

“We both enrolled in the court reporting program at Lakeshore Technical College in the fall of 2015. I chose to pursue a career in court reporting, because the job market in this profession had very attractive statistics, and the desired skillset would also allow me to work as a CART captioner, a service that is in demand more than ever before,” she said.

Perseverance, devotion to coursework, and practice are critical fundamentals to students who are finishing up school and are about to enter the court reporting profession, Seymour advised.

“You’re not done progressing the minute you walk across that stage on graduation day. There’s so much learning and development that comes from job experience. Just like any other career, there will be good days and there will be bad days. As each week passes by, you will gain more skill and confidence. Stay humble, keep a positive attitude, and continue to create new goals for yourself. This profession is alive and well, and the rewards of this profession are fruitful.  The best part is you’re about to become part of a community of reporters and captionists who are exceptionally supportive of each other. So get ready for some fun, some challenges, and a whole lot of growth along the way,” she adds.

“Meredith distinguished herself immediately as a highly motivated individual that brings an infectious, positive attitude to the job, while maintaining a strong personal demeanor,” said Michael G. Neimon, the district court administrator who nominated Seymour. Neimon noted in his letter of recommendation that Seymour began working as an official court reporter upon graduation from school and was brought on to fill a position vacated due to medical leave.

“Meredith did not have the benefit of a slow mentoring process that eased her into a system that is not very tolerant of people who are unable to perform what is expected of them,” Neimon said. “The court system can be an environment that is cold and intimidating. Meredith has weathered that with a combination of a high level of skill, a strong work ethic, a team approach, and professionalism.”

NCRF awards the annual New Professional Reporter Grant to a reporter who is in his or her first year of work, has graduated within a year from an NCRA-approved court reporting program, and meets specific criteria, including a grade point average of 3.5 or above, a letter of recommendation, and actively working in any of the career paths of judicial (official/freelance), CART, or captioning. The grant is in the amount of $2,000.

NCRF scholarships are funded by generous donations. To learn more about NCRF’s scholarships and grants, visit NCRA.org/NCRF.

DMACC Court Reporting Career Fair

What started out as a request for students to visit District 7 turned into a full-blown court reporting career fair! It all started a year ago when Jeanne Jacobs and Karla Lester, RMR, CRR, members of the Iowa Court Reporters Association (ICRA), invited us to bring the court reporting students to their district so they could show them what a great place it is to work.

That seemed like a great idea and something the students would enjoy. But we realized that other folks would probably request that we visit their districts as well. I could see us traveling in a school bus all over the state. Oh, but we’ve got classes to teach and tests to pass.

After visiting with ICRA President Rachel Waterhouse, RPR, we decided that a career fair might be a good solution. The event was originally scheduled in February during Court Reporting & Captioning Week but was canceled because of bad weather.

On April 2, six court reporters, one district court administrator, two judges, four freelance firm owners, and the interim director of human resources for the Iowa Judicial Branch came to the Newton campus of the Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC), Des Moines, Iowa. The top speed students talked with employers first; then the middle speed students; and finally, the theory students. 

Following the fair, employers and DMACC administration and faculty members participated in a roundtable discussion on strategies for recruiting students and building the college’s court reporting program.

Theory students reported feeling a little nervous, even intimidated, at first. However, they all had great comments about how much they learned and how friendly everyone was. Following are sample comments from theory students:

  • My favorite part was that every single court reporter loves their job.
  • I truly appreciated the openness and friendliness of everyone wanting to see all of us succeed.
  • I believe that only good can come out of it. I was intimidated at first, but the conversation was easy and natural.
  • This was a great opportunity for us to feel a more confident in the profession.
  • I feel a little more connected in the court reporting community.
  • It helped me see the “light at the end of the tunnel.”
  • I think it is a great idea to repeat this event annually. It benefits both employers and students.  Employers get to “sell” their firm or district and students get to see all of the options they have.
  • Please have this event annually. I wanted to stay at every table longer!

Second-year students offered these comments:

  • One thing I really appreciated was that all employers, whether freelance or official, asked me what route I was interested in taking. They were all kind and gracious regardless of whether or not I was considering their area or method of reporting. The overall atmosphere of the job fair was one of enthusiasm and excitement for the new reporters who will be working all throughout Iowa. I feel very fortunate to have been educated in this state filled with professional and welcoming reporters.
  • All of the interactions I had with different employers were extremely positive and very encouraging. I am anxious to begin the job application process and to see what the future holds. I am confident that whatever path I choose will include seasoned and accomplished reporters willing to help me along the way.
  • All in all, the experience was nothing short of amazing and much needed for everyone.
  • I think every table offered the opportunity that if I ever wanted to sit in and shadow for a day, that I am more than welcome to. Everyone was so thoughtful and encouraging. It was great to feel like a professional that day, and I hope DMACC continues to provide this opportunity in the future.
  • I honestly don’t think the day could have gone any better. I really enjoyed talking to everyone. I will keep an open mind, as I get closer to graduation, to both freelancing and official, because both offer great job opportunities.
  • Everyone I spoke to was nice, and it sounds like there are many wonderful places I can work in the future. I am excited to see where I will end up.

Thank you to all of the employers listed below:

District 5:                    Chelsey Wheeler, RPR, official court reporter

District 6:                    Sarah Hyatt, RPR, official court reporter and the Hon. Judge Lars Anderson

District 7:                    Karla Lester, RMR, CRR, freelance court reporter

Jeanne Jacobs, court reporter

District 8:                    Kailey Booten, court reporter

                                    Kari Diggins, RPR, official court reporter

                                    Heidi Baker, district court administrator

                                    The Hon. Judge Mary Ann Brown

Iowa Judicial District: Jessica Holmes, interim director of human resources

Sarah Dittmer, RPR, freelance court reporter

Susan Frye, RPR, freelance court reporter and owner of Susan Frye Court Reporting

Andrea Kreutz, CLVS, and owner of Huney-Vaughn Reporting

Sean Sweeney, owner of Sweeney Court Reporting

2019 NCRA Convention & Expo speakers

The following reporters and captioners will be speaking as part of the student track at the 2019 NCRA Convention & Expo. The event will run Aug. 15-18 in Denver, Colo.

Read the session descriptions here.

Jo Ann Bryce, RMR, CRR, CSR, FCRR

Jo Ann Bryce has been a reporter for more than 42 years. She is currently an official reporter for the Northern District of California San Francisco Federal Court. Bryce is a five-time National Realtime Champion, and at the 2014 NCRA Convention & Expo in San Francisco, she won both the National Speed and Realtime Contests. In total, she has five gold medals.

Amie R. First

Amie R. First, RDR, CRR, CRC, CPE

Amie R. First, Realtime Systems Administrator, has been passionate about court reporting since starting school.  She freelanced for several years and then caught the captioning bug working as a CART Provider at Kent State University in Ohio for a decade (and getting a pretty good education).  She was also a broadcast captioner for five years covering news, sports, webinars, earning calls, in addition to providing large-screen CART for seminars and graduation ceremonies. 

Nine years ago, she took her realtime skills to Orlando, Fla., when she accepted a federal official position in the Middle District of Florida where she has covered many realtime/daily trials. In Florida, she found the love of her life, Shane, and is getting married this fall in her hometown Minerva, Ohio.

First has served on the board of the Ohio Court Reporters Association (OCRA) and is a recipient of the association’s Martin Fincun and Diplomat awards. She has served on several committees for OCRA and NCRA in addition to mentoring students and new professionals. 

Mike Hensley

Michael Hensley, RDR

Mike Hensley is a new reporter who is raising the bar for what new professionals can achieve. In just three years of court reporting, he is already a certified RDR. He also holds a position on the board of directors for the California Court Reporters Association and serves as chair of NCRA’s New Professionals Advisory Committee. As a freelance deposition reporter in the San Francisco Bay Area, Hensley handles highly technical patent cases as well as complex medical and pharmaceutical subject matter. He does all this while providing realtime to clients and lightning-fast turnaround on final transcripts. His high energy and enthusiasm fuel his desire to help others succeed and achieve their full potential as court reporters.

Melanie Humphrey-Sonntag

Melanie Humphrey-Sonntag, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC

Melanie Humphrey-Sonntag has been reporting nearly 40 years as an official, freelancer, firm owner, and occasional CART provider and has been a member of NCRA for the entirety. She has given countless seminars for reporters, students, vendors, and educators and holds NCRA’s highest credentials. She has served in multiple committee positions and numerous state and national leadership positions, including as president of NCRA. She became a Fellow of the Academy of Professional Reporters in 2001.

Debbie Kriegshauser

Debbie Kriegshauser, FAPR, RMR, CRR, CLVS, CRC, RSA, IL-CSR, MO-CCR

Debbie Kriegshauser is currently a federal official reporter with the U.S. District Court in St. Louis, Mo. She has been a reporter since 1980 and has worked in all phases of the reporting profession. She also has served on numerous national and state committees, including her current service on the NCRA Student/Teacher Committee.

Saba McKinley

Saba McKinley, RPR, CRI, CSR

Saba McKinley has been reporting since 1991 as an official and court reporter pro tem. In 2010, she included CART captioning as part of her professional services.  McKinley served on the California Court Reporters Board (CCRA) of Directors from 2013-2015 and currently serves on both the CCRA and the NCRA’s Captioning committees.

She is on the speaker rosters for both CCRA and NCRA and loves talking to students about the court reporting industry. 

After attending CCRA’s Boot Camp, McKinley was inspired to begin offering both onsite and off-site trainings on the essentials necessary to provide effective CART captioning services. 

Phoebe Moorhead

Phoebe Moorhead, RPR, CRR

Phoebe Moorhead is a freelance court reporter and is currently president of the Utah Court Reporters Association.

Alan Peacock, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC,

Alan Peacock has more than 30 years’ experience in the court reporting, CART, and CART Captioning fields. He lives in Mobile, Ala.

Lindsay Stoker

Lindsay Stoker, RPR, CRC

Lindsay Stoker is a freelance captioner with more than 11 years of experience. Her specialties include remote captioning and broadcast work. She travels frequently to caption conferences, often with thousands in attendance. She lives in Los Angeles, Calif., with her husband, Brandon, and her four sons.

Jeffrey Weigl

Jeffrey Weigl, RMR, CRR, CRC, CRS(A)

Now in his 13th year in the industry, Jeffrey Weigl is the president of WizCap Realtime Reporting Inc., and splits his time between legal reporting, on-site captioning, and everything that comes with running a boutique firm. Weigl’s passion for speed building and shorthand theory refinement has been highlighted by two NCRA Speed Contest wins along with multiple Realtime Contest medals.

Darlene Williams

Darlene Williams, RPR, CMRS

Darlene Williams has been a freelance reporter since 1985. Her career has taken her around the country to work all matters of litigation, including medical malpractice, intellectual property, construction, and the like. In her present position with Planet Depos, she acts as a mentor to students of the Planet Institute program, teaching them how to prepare transcripts and helping to bridge the gap between graduation from reporting school to taking their first job.

Doug Zweizig

Doug Zweizig, RDR, CRR, FCCR

A 1989 graduate of Central Pennsylvania Business School (now Central Pennsylvania College), Doug Zweizig earned his associate degree and moved to Philadelphia, Pa., from a small town in 1989, where he began work as a freelance court reporter. In 2001 Zweizig began as an official court reporter in Philadelphia Common Pleas Court. After many rewarding years there, in 2014, he accepted a position in the U. S. District Court for the District of Maryland, where he’s currently working. He is a two-time NCRA Realtime Contest Champion, has placed third overall four times, second overall once, and third overall in his very first speed contest. He has 17 medals in both realtime and speed: seven gold, four silver, six bronze.

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2019 NCRA Convention & Expo Student Track Sessions

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Check out this year’s NCRA Convention & Expo student sessions. We bring back a couple of old favorites and two new sessions. Students also get a chance to kick off the weekend with a students-only breakfast where they can get an overview of the convention and make connections with other students. Don’t miss the Meet and Greet with the NCRA Board of Directors.

Steno Speed Dating

As the seminar’s name implies, it will consist of 10 stellar reporters sitting with a small group of students for 10-minute long “speed dates.” The students will have 10 minutes to ask their questions before switching off to the next reporter for their next “date.”

Presenters:  Jo Ann Bryce, RMR, CRR, CSR, FCRR;  Amie First, RDR, CRR, CRC, CPE; Mike Hensley, RDR; Debbie Kriegshauser, FAPR, RMR, CRR, CLVS, RSA, IL-CSR, MO-CCR; Saba McKinley, RPR, CRI, CSR; Alan Peacock, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC; Margary Rogers, RPR, CRI; Kelly Shainline, RPR, CRR; Lindsey Stoker, RPR, CRC; Jeffrey Weigl, RMR, CRR, CRC, CSR(A); and Doug Zweizig, RDR, CRR, FCRR.


You Want Me to Do What? I Didn’t Learn That in School….

Court reporting is more than putting words on a page.  In this seminar you will learn some common transcript preparation pitfalls young reporters encounter and how to avoid them.  The presenter will share some tricks of the trade, as well as helpful research tools and how to use them.  Come for the information but stay for the “goodies.”

Presenter:  Darlene Williams, RPR, CMRS

Darlene Williams

Good Reporter/Bad Reporter

This audience-participation skit touches on professional etiquette and mannerisms in conducting oneself at work. Learn the tools of the trade to win over clientele for freelance work or get hired for overflow work in a judicial proceeding. Why some people “have it” and others just simply don’t. Be prepared to laugh!

Presenters: Melanie Humphrey-Sonntag, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, and Debbie Kriegshauser, FAPR, RMR, CRR, CLVS, RSA, IL-CSR, MO-CCR


Student Jeopardy

A fun and interactive “Jeopardy” game that will cover such topics as: the history of court reporting, spelling, homonyms/synonyms, vocabulary, and courtroom procedures. Students will learn some of the trickier English and grammar rules that we encounter every day and will be quizzed on the types of questions found on the RPR Written Knowledge Test. Be on the team who answers the most questions correctly and win a prize!

Presenters: Debbie Kriegshauser, FAPR, RMR, CRR, CLVS, RSA, IL-CSR, MO-CCR, and Phoebe Moorhead, RPR, CRR

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Congratulations to the Student Speed Contest Winners

Madalyn Massey
Kelly Madden
Rachel Marr

Schools across the country once again participated in this year’s NCRA student speed contest. The contest was held in celebration of 2019 Court Reporting & Captioning Week and gave students the chance to test their speed skills on Literary and Q&A tests. Madalyn Massey, of Des Moines Area Community College in Iowa, was awarded first prize. Kelly Madden, of Atlantic Technical Center in Coconut Creek, Fla., was awarded second prize, and Rachel Marr of the Hardeman School of Court Reporting and Captioning, Tampa, Fla., was awarded third prize.

“I first got interested in the Realtime Reporting program because of a family friend, who is now my wonderful mentor,” said Massey. “It also became a huge motivation for me to get a job where I would be sitting due to an ankle injury I received in high school. I really need a job where I am stationary, and I became even more interested in the career field after seeing firsthand the dedication, professionalism, and passion involved in the court reporting field.”

Massey is set to graduate in December.

Second place winner Madden is returning to court reporting after an 18-year hiatus. A graduate of Sheridan Vocational Technical Institute, Hollywood, Fla., she is back at Atlantic Technical to hone her skills and get to back to the career she loved so much.

Marr is a mother of three who got into court reporting by chance. “I had to leave my radiology program when I was pregnant and while I was on my leave, I talked to an attorney who said that if she had a chance to do it all over again, she would be a court reporter. That piqued my interest, so I started looking into what exactly that detailed [in terms of] school, money, certifications etc.” 

The Mardi Gras-themed contest, sponsored by NCRA’s Student/Teacher Committee, was open to students in any court reporting program, at any speed level. Ninety-three students from 10 schools took the tests. One Literary and one Q&A test were given, and each consisted of five minutes of dictation at a speed that each student was either currently working on or had just passed.

In order to be eligible to win a prize, students must have passed the test with at least 96 percent accuracy. The tests, written by Debbie Kriegshauser, FAPR, RMR, CRR, CLVS, CRC, a member of NCRA’s Student/Teacher Committee, were designed so that the speed could be adjusted to fit the student’s speed.

A total of 25 students passed at least one test. Three of those who passed were chosen at random to receive the winners’ beads. As the gold bead, or first prize winner, Massey received an RPR Study Guide ($125 value). Madden, the purple bead, or second prize winner, was awarded the choice of a one-year NCRA student membership ($46 value) or one complimentary leg of the RPR Skills Test ($72.50 value). The winner of the green beads, Marr, won a $25 Starbucks gift card.

Many thanks to Kriegshauser for her hard work writing the speed tests and preparing the other testing materials. The contest would not have been possible without her.

NCRA would like to showcase the hard work that students and schools are doing to promote the court reporting and captioning professions. Below are the names of all the students who participated in this year’s contest. Students marked with an asterisk passed the test with 96 percent accuracy or higher.

Atlantic Technical College

Coconut Creek, Fla.

Kelly Madden*          

Victor Laznik 

Amber King   

Lynn Corbet   

Brown College of Court Reporting

Atlanta, Ga.

Parker Burton

David Gee      

Shirley Johnson          

DeLeon Little

Chris Tomko  

College of Court Reporting

Valparaiso, Ind.

Kerri Huff      

Natasha Wentzel        

Patricia Lopez*          

Des Moines Area Community College

Newton, Iowa

Madelyn Schmidt*    

Madison Rowland     

Madalyn Massey*      

Green River College

Auburn, Wash.

Ashley Dixon*           

Spencer Holesinsky   

Justin Choi     

Sarah Webb   

Mariah Banta*

Alexandra Fleming    

Hardeman School of Court Reporting and Captioning

Tampa, Fla.

Michele Buono*

Rachel Marr*

Casey Venoitte*

Mark Kislingbury Academy of Court Reporting

Houston, Texas

Christy Nowotny       

Pearl Gonzalez           

Cayley Rodrigue        

Macomb Community College

Clinton Township, Mich.

Allison Boggess         

Jennifer Mitrevski      

LaTasha Lindsey       

Allison Grawburg      

Carla Stark     

Kim Champagne        

Jackie Felker  

Robin Fisette  

Dorothy Strong          

Robert Ludkiig          

Kelly Mason  

Alicia Urbinati           

NAIT

Edmonton, AB Canada       

Andriana Bilous

Angeline Jacobsen

Caprice Albert

Elizabeth Fossen

Emily Ferdinand

Ericah Crumback

Jasmine Hallis

Jennifer Friesen

Jodie Kostiw

Joseph Nudelman

Julia Desrosiers

Katherine Gallin

Kayla Velthuis-Kroeze

Kelcy Sherbank

Kristina Zeller

Krystal Truong

Lucie Titley

Marie Foreman

Meagan Gibson

Michael Thomas

Robin Tarnowetzki

Roxanna Doctor

Sara Pelletier

Tyler Hopkins

Abby Robinson

Amanda Hebb

Ariana McCalla*

Bradley Morrison

Julie Layton*

Lora Zabiran

McKaya Baril*

Michelle Stevens

Netannys Turner-Wiens

Presley Thomson

Sarah Pfau

Shauna Lagore*

Stephanie Jabbour

Yazda Khaled

Plaza College

Forest Hills, N.Y.

Paula Mullen*

Taylor Mascari*

Bianna Lewis*           

Letizia Yemma*        

Michelle Paluszek*    

Elisabeth Dempsey*  

Dishawn Williams*    

Maia Morgan*

Alexandra Bourekas*

Rachel Salatino*        

Emily Nicholson*      

Tikiya Etchison*        

Christina Penna          

Shane Perry    

Pedro Santiago           

Cecilia Miranda

Schools in the News

The court reporting program at MacCormac College, Chicago, Ill., was recently featured in a report regarding court reporting on Chicago Tonight which is a local PBS program.

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