It’s that magical time of year again for the annual NCRA Student Skills Contest

In celebration of Court Reporting & Captioning Week being held Feb. 8 – 15, 2020, the NCRA Student/Teacher Committee is sponsoring a Walt Disney themed skills contest that will be offered to all students at varying dictation speeds.  The tests (Literary and Q&A) consist of five minutes of dictation at a speed level commensurate with the current level of speed building each individual student is striving to achieve or has just successfully achieved.  In order to be eligible to win, students must pass one of the tests with 96 percent accuracy.  The faculty at each school will be responsible for dictating and grading the material which will be provided by the Student/Teacher Committee. *

How to win:  All students who successfully pass a test are eligible for prizes.  Winners will be drawn at random for first, second, and third place prizes among all the names of winners that are forwarded to Ellen Goff at NCRA Headquarters by March 2, 2020.

  • Walt Disney Grand Prize (1st):  NCRA’s RPR Study Guide ($125 value)
  • Mickey Mouse Prize (2nd):  Choice of a one-year NCRA Student Membership ($55 value) or one leg of the RPR Skills Test (72.50 value)
  • Minnie Mouse Prize (3rd):  $25 Starbucks Gift Card

All students who participate in the contest, even if they don’t pass a skills test, will have their names and schools published in the NCRA Student Newsletter and thejcr.com.  NCRA wants to showcase the hard work that students and schools are doing to promote the court reporting and captioning professions.

Let’s have some fun and make sure your school’s name is showcased as well as your own!  We’ve had an impressive number of students participating the past couple years.  Let’s see if we can make that number even larger in 2020!  Grab those Disney good luck charms and your magical Tinker Bell pixie dust and prepare to join the fun and camaraderie with your fellow students across the land as you endeavor to give this competition a whirl!  Whose school will have the most participants?  Will it be yours?  We don’t care if you’re at 60 WPM or 225 WPM.  This contest is for you!

As Walt Disney himself said, “All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.”  Let’s pursue this dream of competing in this contest and enjoying the fine cast of Disney characters who will entertain you with these skills dictations.  What do you have to lose? 

The annual NCRA Conference & Expo this year is in Orlando, Fla, Aug. 6-9, at the Hyatt Regency Orlando.   Mark your calendars.  We’ve got a great line-up planned!

For more information, feel free to contact Debbie Kriegshauser at deborah0841@att.net or Ellen Goff at egoff@ncra.org.

*Full details and rules for the contest will be sent to your school’s faculty, so please make sure they know you would like to participate in case they fail to receive the material through the appropriate channels. We will make sure they receive it.

For the love of steno, celebrate 2020 Court Reporting & Captioning Week

For the love of steno is this year’s Court Reporting & Captioning Week theme and one that can be touted year-round by court reporting schools and their students. The 2020 weeklong celebration designed to help showcase the benefits of a career in court reporting or captioning runs Feb. 8-15. To help schools and students celebrate, NCRA has made available a vast number of resources, ranging from press release templates to media messages specific to schools, to help spread the word about this wonderful profession. These and other resources, including many that are customizable, are available at NCRA.org/home/events.

Other resources available to help mark the week include logos and graphics for use on social media platforms and emails, as well as customizable business cards and flyers.

Downy Adult School, Downy, Calif., has already made plans to celebrate 2020 Court Reporting & Captioning Week by hosting a variety of different activities, including a pajama day where students and faculty will enjoy cupcakes embellished with the “For the love of steno” message and a hat day. There will also be an “I scream for steno” day where participants will make T-shirts celebrating court reporting and captioning, enjoy ice cream cones, and watch the court reporting documentary, For the Record. The school also has planned a bake sale, a wear red and pink day, and raffles for students to win prizes.

SimplySteno, an online court reporting program based in Tigard, Ore., will be celebrating Court Reporting & Captioning Week by allowing free online screenings of the court reporting documentary For the Record. According to the program’s founder, Marc Greenberg, CRI, who created the documentary, anyone can view the film for free by going to https://vimeo.com/ondemand/fortherecord and selecting the “rent” option, clicking on the “Apply promo code” link, and using SIMPLYSTENO as the code. The free screenings will be available from Feb. 8-15.

In Chicago, Ill., students at MacCormac College will be hosting a Court Reporting & Captioning Week interactive question and answer session and reception on Feb. 10 at 10 a.m.  The session will feature guest speaker NCRA member Isaiah Roberts, RPR. According to Selena Scott, J.D., the college’s program director, Roberts is “quite popular with younger reporters and even did live captioning at Coachella this past summer.  He will speak to the students and answer their questions about life on the ‘other side’ of the RPR. There will also be several other court reporters from the professional community on hand to answer questions as well.”

The College of Court Reporting (CCR), Valparaiso, Ind., will host NCRA President Max Curry, RPR, CRI, a firm owner and court reporter from Franklin, Tenn., as a guest speaker during Court Reporting & Captioning Week. Curry will speak to students, alumni, and the general public about the importance of the court reporting profession, the role schools play in educating students, and the value of being an NCRA member. 

According to Natalie Kijurna, director of alumni and employer relations for CCR, the college also plans to highlight its amazing alumni in their chosen field by running a social media campaign based on the “For the Love of Steno” theme, as well as a takeover of its Snapchat account by alumni so they can spread the word about court reporting and captioning. Other plans to celebrate include having a court reporting professional host a Facebook Live sometime during the week to spread the word about how important it is to practice in order to reach your goals, whether it’s achieving exit speeds or your next certification.  During the live Facebook event, CCR is also going to challenge their students and students at participating schools who use EV360 software to practice as much as possible. The top three students who practice the most will win prizes.

Remember to share how you celebrate the week by sending information about and photos of your event to NCRA’s Communications Team at pr@ncra.org. Everyone is also encouraged to share his or her activities on social media using the hashtags #CRCW20 and #DiscoverSteno.

And don’t forget, be sure to check out NCRA’s resources for 2020 Court Reporting & Captioning Week for the most up-to-date materials designed to help you celebrate the week and beyond.

Registered Skilled Reporter (RSR) Skills Test registration opens Feb. 1-20

Registration is opening soon for aspiring court reporters to test in March 2020 for a new NCRA certification, the Registered Skilled Reporter (RSR). This new designation will recognize those stenographic professionals who are looking to validate their beginning level of competency.

“Those new professionals who make the commitment to earn the RSR are also showing their commitment to continuing their skills and proficiency through professional practice while earning an income,” said NCRA President Max Curry, RPR, CRI, Franklin, Tenn.

Earning the RSR will demonstrate an ability to hold a verified level of skill to current and potential clients, current and potential employers, and fellow reporters.

Created as a stepping-stone credential to ultimately achieving the Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) designation, the RSR certification will offer the prestige of an NCRA certification for those new or returning to the court reporting profession who have yet to be able to get their writing speeds up enough to earn the RPR.

Current or aspiring stenographic reporters are eligible to earn the RSR and do not need to be members of NCRA to take the certification’s tests.

Candidates seeking the RSR need to pass three, five-minute Skills Tests:

RSR Literary at 160 words per minute

RSR Jury Charge at 180 words per minute

RSR Testimony/Q&A at 200 words per minute

To pass, an accuracy level of 95 percent is required for each leg. Passed RPR skills tests cannot be used toward earning the RSR.

There is a critical need for qualified, competent stenographers, and the RSR certification will help employers differentiate among candidates applying for these opportunities.

“When you earn the RSR, you have an opportunity to continue learning but begin to enjoy the personal satisfaction of seeing your skills used in professional practice and earn income while you continue your learning,” said NCRA Vice President Debra A. Dibble, RDR, CRR, CRC of Woodland, Utah. “It’s a win/win!”

Visit the NCRA website for more information.

Which job is right for me?

Teresa Russ, CRI

By Teresa Russ, CRI

The wonderful world of court reporting. Way back when, these options to work were not available: freelance as a CART (Communication Access Realtime Translation) captioner, deposition reporter, or broadcast captioner. When I started court reporting school in the early 1980s, I only knew about working in court or taking depositions. The latter we most often call “depos,” which most of us students saw as a glamorous career. “Yes! That’s the one I want,” I thought as a 20-something-year-old. However, court is very lucrative as well as depos. So, what will it be?

Court:  Play a major role in the court proceedings; have a set salary along with getting paid for your transcripts; learn more about our judicial system

Depos:  Make your own schedule; work as much as you like; travel to different cities or countries; learn more about our judicial system

CART captioning:  Work in the classroom setting and learn as a college student and not have to take the tests; give back and help the deaf and hard-of-hearing community; make your own schedule

Broadcast captioning: Have the same benefits as CART and your work appears on TV; if you enjoy sports, you get to watch the games and get paid and you get to help the deaf and hard-of-hearing community

Because I love students and teachers, CART became my first love. I captioned biology, automotive, photography, algebra, and many more classes. Many of my colleagues caption for concerts, even funerals and churches. Many CART captioners migrate to broadcast captioning and many do both. What’s even more exciting is that your skill affords you to do all four of the above options.

I started reminiscing about the judicial field while I was working as a CART captioner. I was chatting with a good friend, Katy Jackson, and she said, “Oh, you want to try depos?” She made some phone calls and just like that I started getting job offers from different deposition agencies. Now, how awesome is that?

While you are a student with several choices to choose from, talk to reporters who have worked in different fields of court reporting. Many reporters will be more than happy to discuss their experiences. If you have been in school for a long time or maybe you are graduating soon, take advantage of the opportunities and sit with a professional and weigh your options. Which one fits your personality the most?

CART captioning seemed to fit my personality the most, but now that I have been doing depositions, I see that being part of the judicial system has its rewards as well, as I love meeting the attorneys and just feeling a part of something that will make a difference in someone’s life in helping bring the truth out from using my awesome skill.

Teresa Russ, CRI, lives in Bellflower, Calif., and works as a CART provider at Cerritos College in Norwalk, Calif. She also does freelance depositions with Atkinson-Baker and several other agencies.

From accounting to court reporting in Alabama

Student Savannah Ray started out as an accounting student, but she changed paths to court reporting thanks to encouragement from her mother.

UTS | Can you talk a little about your background? Did you start the program straight out of high school, or did you have another career first?

SR | I’m an Alabama native, and I have lived in Gadsden for more than five years now.  I decided in my senior year of high school I would be going to Gadsden State to earn an accounting degree. I realized very quickly during my first semester that it wasn’t something that would make a fulfilling career for me because I didn’t really have as much interest in it as I thought.

UTS | How did you first get the idea of being a court reporter?

SR | Well, after I decided accounting wasn’t the path I wanted to take, I mentioned to my mom how I felt lost and was unsure of what to do anymore. She had taken the court reporting program for a brief period before and told me it couldn’t hurt to look into it. I did some research and fell in love with the profession. It kind of lit a fire in me and reignited my excitement for college. I started the program in August 2018 and haven’t looked back since!

UTS | What skill sets do you think would be helpful for a court reporter to possess?

SR | Time management and good concentration have been crucial for me through school. Our instructors hold us to the same standard we’ll have in the working world, so you have to learn to manage your workload in a timely manner and to focus on writing and editing for hours at a time if that’s what is needed.

UTS | What kinds of challenges have you faced during your court reporting program?

SR | The biggest challenge for me was accepting that sometimes you’ll fail. In the path to becoming a court reporter, you’re faced with the hard truth that you won’t always be able to pass every speed the first time you take it. Sometimes you’ll get stuck. There were times I’d really beat myself up over that, but that only held me back even more. Now I try to see not passing in a more positive light, it’s an experience I learned from that’ll help me improve in my future work.

UTS | Have you had a mentor help you out while in school? If yes, how has that helped? If no…how could a mentor help you?

SR | Yes, I recently got a mentor! She’s been lovely and very supportive. Any time I post about my progress she always sends me encouragement, and she’s even helped me to be able to go to my first conference this month which I’m really excited about.

 UTS | Where do you see yourself in five years?

SR | My dream job is to become an official so hopefully in five years I’ll have been able to achieve that.

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

SR | My instructor Michelle once told us to remember that this is our own race to run and it’s not about when you cross the finish line, it’s just about getting across it. That’s really motivated me in the moments when I’m feeling stuck because even if it takes time, I’ll get through those rough spots and make it to my finish line.

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?

SR | I’d tell them about how, with a lot of hard work, you’ll be able to have a skill that not a lot of other people can say they have, writing at 225 words per minute with 95 percent accuracy is an amazing thing to be able to do. There’s also a large amount of job opportunities in the field right now with a potential to earn a nice income.

UTS | Where do you see the profession of court reporting and captioning 10 years from now? Do you think technology will help or hurt the profession?

SR | I feel like advances in technology can be a big help to reporters if we put in the time to learn and master it. Students now can do things that years ago weren’t possible. If we can continue to adapt technology to be an aide to us and work to raise awareness about the profession to younger people, our profession can thrive for years to come.

Savannah Ray is a student at Gadsden State Community College in Gadsden, Ala.

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.

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

Find full event schedule here

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