Green River College motivates students with pins

Everyone who has been a court reporting student knows the effort that goes into achieving each new speed level. One school, Green River College in Auburn, Wash., recognizes that effort with pins commemorating each success.

The school has been awarding the pins for about 10 years for theory and each speed level between 40 and 225 wpm.

“The pins are very popular with our students,” said Sidney Weldele-Wallace, CRI, CPE, the program director of the Court Reporting & Captioning program. “They serve as tangible incentives for progressing through speed levels as well as a visual reminder of how far they have progressed, since we recommend pinning/placing them where they see them every day during their class/practice sessions. We do pin recognition during one of our CRSA (Court Reporting Student Association) meetings every fall and spring quarter. They are a ‘badge of honor’ that we enjoy giving to our deserving students to let them know how very proud we are of them!”

Weldele-Wallace said she thinks the idea was from an NCRA Teacher’s Workshop and discussions on retention and motivating students to persist and succeed. 

Some students use the pins on their personal vision boards, Weldele-Wallace said.

“I believe they are effective as a motivational tool and recognition of hard work and commitment on their part,” she said.

NCRA student member Rachel Helm is a student at Green River College and said she finds the pins motivating.

“I joke with my classmates that sometimes the thought of a shiny new pin is the only thing that keeps me going,” Helm said. “We all know how easy it is to get overwhelmed and lose sight of the end goal when we’re in school, so the pins are incredibly valuable to me and my peers, no matter how small a reward they might seem to be.”

Helm has the 40, 60, 80, 100, 120, and 140 wpm pins. She is now testing at 160 wpm in jury charge and literary and 180 wpm in testimony.

“I have them stuck in a cork board above my desk, so I look at them every time I sit down to practice,” Helm said. “We only get a pin when we’ve passed all three categories in that speed, so it’s extra satisfying once they’re in hand. You know you’ve really mastered that speed, through and through.”

2019 words of the year

Again this year, dictionaries chose the words most talked about, thought about, or worried about to be the words of the year for 2019.

Merriam-Webster

Merriam-Webster chose they as its word of the year. As explained, “It reflects a surprising fact: even a basic term — a personal pronoun — can rise to the top of our data. Although our lookups are often driven by events in the news, the dictionary is also a primary resource for information about language itself, and the shifting use of they has been the subject of increasing study and commentary in recent years. Lookups for they increased by 313 percent in 2019 over the previous year.”

Oxford Dictionary

Oxford Dictionary chose climate emergency as their word for 2019. The company noted: “This year, heightened public awareness of climate science and the myriad implications for communities around the world has generated enormous discussion of what the UN secretary-general has called ‘the defining issue of our time.’ But it is not just this upsurge in conversation that has caught our attention. Our research reveals a demonstrable escalation in the language people are using to articulate information and ideas concerning the climate. This is most clearly encapsulated by the rise of climate emergency in 2019.”

Dictionary.com

Dictionary.com picked existential as their word for 2019. “We define the adjective existential in two senses. The first is ‘of or relating to existence.’ Entering English in the late 1600s, this existential is often used when the fact of someone or something’s being — its very existence — is at stake. Our second sense of existential is ‘concerned with the nature of human existence as determined by the individual’s freely made choices.’ This existential is related to existentialism, a philosophy that affirms our individual agency in making meaningful, authentic choices about our lives,” said representatives for the company.

Court reporter can’t escape job even on sons’ hockey trips

The Norman [Okla.] Transcript posted an article on Nov. 18 about how court reporter Marla Cullison juggles her role as a hockey mom and an official court reporter.

Read more.

What’s your walk-up song?

Recently on social media we posted that Baby Shark was the song that inspired the Washington Nationals baseball team and their fans to a World Series win. We asked our followers, “If you could pick a song that played as you walked into work, what would it be?”

Here are some of the answers we received:

One Moment in Time by Whitney Houston

Linda Hershey, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, Chattanooga, Tenn.

The Joke by Brandi Carlile

Phyllis Craver-Lykken, RPR, Seattle, Wa.

High Hopes by Panic! at the Disco

Lauren Lawrence, RPR, Kansas City, Mo.

Bang the Drum All Day by Todd Rundgren

Leticia Salas, RPR, Houston, Texas

When the Going Gets Tough by Billy Ocean

Christa Jacimore, RDR, CRR, CRC, Little Rock, Ark.

Confident by Demi Lovato

Marie Runyon, RMR, CRR, Shreveport, La.

Rule the World

Mary Schweinhagen, RDR, CRR, Dayton, Ohio

Nails, Hair, Hips, Heels by Todrick Hall

Carissa Sabio, Fresno, Ca.

Roar by Katy Perry

Lynette Mueller, FAPR, RDR, CRR, Memphis, Tenn.

Centerfield by John Fogerty

Kim Falgiani, RDR, CRC, Warren, Ohio

Tubthumping by Chumbawamba

Tori Pittman, FAPR, RDR, CRI, Wake Forest, N.C.

Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked by Cage the Elephant

Kathryn Thomas, RDR, CRR, CRC, Caseyville, Ill.

Court reporters share their nightmares

In honor of all the Halloween scares happening this week, we asked court reporters on social media what bad dreams they have had. Here are some of their responses:

I didn’t have my machine, so I was provided a cookie sheet with refried beans spread out, into which I pushed my fingers with steno strokes. Each stroke was lighter than the prior so it would rest on top. I felt I got the hang of it until I was asked for read back. Last thing I remember of the nightmare was holding a butter knife and trying to figure out how deep to slice the beans on a horizontal plane to find the readback spot. I was worried not only if I could read my bean record but how I was not going to turn all the bean record into mush. (My husband interpreted the dream that I was too stressed and needed to take a vacation.) Duh!

Debbie Gale, RPR, Santa Ana, Calif.

I had to ask my client to drive me to deposition with baby in tow and asked him during break to feed my baby her bottle.

Donna L. Linton, RMR, Ashburn, Va.

I used to have a recurring dream when my kids were very little that I couldn’t find a babysitter. So I was in the courtroom trying to balance the baby on my chest leaning back while I was writing the proceedings.

Lisa Welch, RPR, Gridley, Calif.

I had a dream where I had to knit the testimony. And I’m a terrible knitter!

Rebecca Forman, RMR, CRR, Staten Island, N.Y.

I think a lot of us have the dream where we forget our writer, and we’re “writing” on the table while hoping to remember everything that’s said and hoping nobody notices.

Danielle R Murray, RMR, CRR, Olathe, Kan.

Two recurring dreams. One is that I am trying to write everything down with a pen and notepad because my machine isn’t with me. The other one is that I’m running an errand before an afternoon deposition and keep getting delayed or lose track of time, so I am never able to get to the deposition.

Susan Sims, RPR, Meridian, Idaho

I have had this dream several times: I am in court, and for some reason I don’t have my machine. I, however, am trying to write the steno outlines by long hand on a note pad. It’s like I am a pen writer from the old days, only I am writing in steno shorthand. Of course, I cannot keep up and am just frantic.

Laura Payne, RPR, Henderson, Texas

I have had this nightmare too, forgetting my machine and trying to write it all on paper. I’ve had it a couple times, then my last nightmare I didn’t even have paper and told them: “Go ahead, I’ll just remember it all.”

Deirdre Rand, RPR, Lehi, Utah

Mine is always walking into a room with a hundred lawyers and having to gather appearances from each one. Always wake up before I get them all!

Karen Vornkahl, CRI, CPE, Baton Rouge, La.

I also have had the dream where I am writing on my machine, and it is sinking in the sand or water.

Kelly A. McKee, RDR, CRR, CRC, CPE

All 15 lawyers around the deposition table look identical and have the same last name.

Tammey Pastor, RPR (Ret.), Chandler, Az.

I had a dream in my 225s in school where the machine keys turned to razor blades! And it was finally a take I was getting. As I’m writing a steady stream of blood was going down my machine to my tripod and making a sticky pool of blood at my feet. It didn’t hurt, but I was horrified! Talk about test anxiety!

Kairisa Magee, Gary, Ind.

I used to have a recurring nightmare where I forgot my machine, so I decided I would just write down everything they were saying using a pen and paper. I then realize that I can’t keep up, so I decided that I’ll just memorize everything they’re saying and type it all out later.

Theresa Phillips-Blackwell, Lomita, Calif.

Show up to a depo with no clothes on.

Cindy Isaacsen, RPR, Olathe, Kan.

Catching up with Speed Contest winner Jeff Weigl

NCRA 2019 Speed Contest winner Jeff Weigl
NCRA 2019 Speed Contest winner Jeff Weigl

Jeffrey Weigl, RMR, CRR, CRC, from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, won the 2019 Speed Contest held during the NCRA Convention & Expo. His overall accuracy rate was 97.54 percent or 87 errors total. The JCR Weekly reached out to Weigl to learn more about this, his third win in the Speed Contest.

JCR | Can you tell us a little about your career and where you’re working currently?

JW | I am the president of WizCap Realtime Reporting Inc., a firm I started around ten years ago. My time is currently split among business operations, pretrial legal proceedings, and onsite captioning. Onsite captioning is definitely my favorite aspect of the profession.

JCR | How long have you been working in the profession?

JW | I actually had to look this up. I’ve been a full-time reporter for 14 years now. With my career, marriage, and family, the years slip by pretty fast.

JCR | How did you learn about the profession?

JW | My dad, Jerry, was an official (pen writer) for many years before I was born. After that, he spent the next 11 years as the program head of the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) Captioning & Court Reporting program, followed by 20 years as an instructor. My sisters and I always looked forward to the annual family getaways when my parents would attend the Alberta Shorthand Reporters Association conferences. I was around the profession my entire life and yet never really knew what the heck my dad did. After a somewhat miserable year at university pursuing a science degree, my dad suggested a career in court reporting. I was persuaded to check out the program and liked what I saw, which has proven to be a pretty fortuitous turn of events to say the least.

JCR | This is your third win. Does it feel like it gets easier?

JW | I actually feel like it’s gotten harder each year. I now know what to expect from the contests and how to best prepare, but each time around I’ve been dealing with the pressure of personal expectations, and that’s never helpful. While the content of the tests varies in difficulty year to year, the thing that remains constant is the talent of all of the other contest regulars. If I went in unprepared, I would have no chance at winning. That reality is a big motivator leading up to a contest.

JCR | You compete in both the Realtime and Speed Contests. As a participant, what are some of the nuanced differences you see between the two?

JW | I find them to be incredibly different. While the ability to write quickly is obviously beneficial for Realtime, the difference is in the mental processing. When writing strictly for speed, the more you think about things, the more trouble you find yourself in. You really just have to let things flow with as little hesitation as possible. Realtime is challenging because you need to be quick while at the same time processing what you’re writing – sound-alikes, punctuation, etc. I cannot effectively practice for speed while connected to Case CATalyst. Even if I have my screen turned away, my brain is unable to let go. This year, I did all of my speed practice solely on my writer and then dumped the files into Case CATalyst for review after the fact. I got a ton of dictionary entries that way. I’m still not sure that I could realistically practice toward winning both contests in the same year. Oh, and some of the speed-specific things I like to do – like dropping punctuation and speaker IDs – that doesn’t get you very far in Realtime.

JCR | Do you have a preference on which one you would prefer to win?

JW | My goal has always been to place highly in the Speed Contest, but winning a Realtime title as well would be unbelievable. Doug’s Realtime score this year blows my mind.

JCR | Do you plan to continue to compete at the national level?

JW | Placing in the Speed Contest requires a big personal commitment and a high level of motivation to properly prepare, and I think I’ve maybe scratched that itch. But a win in Realtime would certainly be worth fighting for.

JCR | What motivates you to compete?

JW | I am a competitive person by nature, be it sports, board games, etc. Standing shoulder to shoulder with the greats of our profession is an amazing feeling. Shorthand theory is so personalized and so unique – always changing, adapting, improving. I know that how I wrote five years ago is incredibly different from how I write today, and how I will write five years from now. The feeling that I haven’t yet fully met my shorthand potential is exciting to think about.

JCR | What advice would you have for a person who has never been in a speed contest before? How can they get started?

JW | It all starts with a personal commitment to be better. Put that date in your calendar, whether it’s for an NCRA certification test or a Speed Contest. The goal is improvement, not winning. Runners train to complete marathons. I have never met someone with the goal of winning.

JCR | Do you practice for the Speed or Realtime Contests? If so, what is your plan? If not, to what do you attribute your speed?

JW | Practice? Nope, not at all. Ha ha!

I don’t care how talented someone may be, there is no chance of winning the Speed or Realtime Contests without a very deliberate and consistent practice regimen. The outline of my practice plan has stayed relatively constant the last few years, with minor tweaks added each time around. I start getting back into timed dictation three to four months out, once or twice a week. As time goes on, the frequency increases. By the last month and a half, I am practicing every single day for around an hour. Consistency of practice is key. And throughout the year, I am always looking to incorporate new briefs and phrases that can make my life easier. I find “Brief It” to be a great tool for adding new concepts to my writing.

JCR | Has your win affected you in any way?

JW | Winning aside, practicing at a high level for months at a time will make anyone better at their job. If I’m able to write timed dictation at 280 wpm, the real world becomes less stressful. And had I not caught the bug for competing, I probably wouldn’t have attended very many NCRA events over the past few years, and that would have been such a huge loss personally and professionally. I am very grateful for all of the friendships I have been fortunate enough to make along the way, particularly during this summer’s event in Denver.

JCR | Is there any advice you can give to other NCRA members on how each of us can be an advocate for our profession?

JW | I think the key is being approachable on the job and enthusiastic about what we can do. If someone shows an interest, take the time to explain to them how it all works. And if we all work toward writing faster and cleaner, we will always be the preferred method for creating the record. 

JCR | Any questions we should have asked or anything else you would like to share?

JW | Thank you to my family, friends, colleagues, and Stenograph for your support in helping me reach my goals. I hope that I can inspire even a couple reporters to work toward improving their skills like all of the previous contest winners have inspired me.

You know you’re a court reporter if …

We recently asked this fill-in-the-blank question on the NCRA Facebook page.

Here are some of the great answers:

You know you’re a court reporter if …

“When you edit and punctuate restaurant menus, church bulletins, billboards (while driving), your text messages to other court reporters, hate the AI functions on your text messaging when they get it wrong, try to publicly correct someone when they say ‘conversate,’ or ‘pacific’ for ‘specific.’ And when you walk away from a group conversation (not work related) when one person talks over another.”

Margary Rogers, RPR, CRI


“You judge people based on how fast/slow they talk.

Me: I love Ms. Jones.

The bailiff: Why? She’s a horrible attorney.

Me: That’s not the point. She doesn’t speak fast and she enunciates.”

Athena Rose


“You chime in to your kids’ conversation from another room and their friend asks, ‘How did she hear that,’ and they reply, ‘She’s a court reporter, she hears everything.'”

Heidi Baptista Benavides


“You’re talking to your husband and he nods in response to a question and you say ‘I’m sorry, is that a yes?'”

Judy Harrell Wallenfelt


“You’re the only one who understood the muffled PA announcement at the airport.”

Michael Bouley, RDR


“Your husband thinks you don’t hear his conversation on the phone in the other room because you’re talking to someone else … but you hear everything.”

Michelle Yaklovich


“Your Google feed would raise questions if anyone searched the history.”

Robin L. Coleman


“You renew your NCRA membership every single year because you know they have the best interest of your profession at heart!”

Eve Rogers Key, RPR


“Your kids correct their teachers’ work.”

Crystal Ballast, RPR


“You know you’re a court reporter if you want to debate the phlebotomist at your doctor’s office about her sanitizing/swabbing technique before the venipuncture.”

Diana Miller Bengs, RPR


“When you are in the hospital for a procedure and you grill the anesthesiologist with questions until he asks if you’re a lawyer.”

Kathleen Vaglica, RMR


“If you red ink your wife’s love letters … not a good idea.”

Jim Korwan


“You’re all caught up on pages and don’t know what to do with your free time.”

Ksenija Zeltkalns, RPR


“You can’t listen to anything where people are talking over each other. Talk radio is sooo annoying.”

Dani Murray, RMR, CRR


“Spelling sound effects doesn’t scare you.”

Michael Bouley, RDR

Praising punctuation

In honor of National Punctuation Day on Sept. 24, we recently asked these questions on the NCRA Facebook page. Here are some of the responses:

What is your favorite punctuation mark and why?
“Interrobang. Not since the Selectric have I been able to use it, as our keyboards don’t have one. Oh, how swell it would be to use the ‘bang!’ Now I must settle for only uttering it aloud — delightful word to say and hear. Interrobang!”

Tara Gandel Hudson, RPR,CRR

“Semicolon; because the thoughts are connected but they are just not quite ready to end the sentence.”

Amy Quint Richardson, RMR, CRR

“Dashes, the only thing that can make sense out of run-on sentences.”

Deborah Cohen-Rojas, RDR, CRR

“Exclamation point, because it shows excitement, either happy or mad.”

Michelle Iadonisi

If you could invent a new punctuation mark, what would it be?

“I think we could use a new symbol to reflect a sentence was sarcastic.”

Ksenija Zeltkalns, RPR

“I would create a new punctuation mark called a skid mark consisting of two consecutive equals signs == for when a dash doesn’t quite capture the meaning of how abrupt the interruption is when speakers are talking over one another.”

Amy Quint Richardson, RMR, CRR

A court reporter hits the open road

Monyeen Black, RPR, CRR

By Monyeen Black, RPR, CRR

About 10 years ago I purchased my first motorcycle after completing a motorcycle safety class in Paso Robles, Calif.  I was hooked. I had always ridden double-up with my husband, but he thought I should take the class just so I had my license. Fast forward some years, and we started doing long-distance riding, mostly completing Iron Butt Saddle Sore 1000s, which is riding more than 1,000 miles in under 24 hours. 

How court reporting is very similar to long-distance motorcycle riding

  • I am a long-distance motorcycle rider. I ride 1,000-mile+ rides in under 24 hours — just like pulling an all-nighter to produce an expedite. 
  • Riding takes focus — just like listening to a mumbling attorney and/or witness. 
  • Having the correct riding gear makes the ride that much more enjoyable — just like having a great steno machine or a DYMO or a back rest.
  • Riders always practice their skills — just like many reporters practice or attend seminars to learn new tips.
Black and her husband, Keith

My husband, Keith, and I got to do an amazing motorcycling adventure this summer. He had to be in Milwaukee to attend a conference, and so we decided to make a trip of it on our motorcycles. This would be the biggest trip we have taken. 

We knew the trip to Milwaukee, Wis., would complete an Iron Butt Saddle Sore 1,000 (although we had wanted to do a Bun Burner Gold originally, which is 1,500 miles in 24 hours). We had a few different routes picked out over the months we were planning this trip and last minute decided to head north to avoid the heatwave that was hitting through Las Vegas when we were scheduled to leave on our trip since we were concerned about dehydration. The plan was to just knock out miles going there and on the way back we would play more tourists. 

The one thing I really wanted to see was Mt. Rushmore for the illumination viewing at night. I had wanted to check out Crazy Horse Memorial, ride through Sturgis, S.D., just to see the town, maybe get to Chief Joseph’s Highway. Nothing was set in stone, only making hotel reservations a few hours before we had planned to arrive into a city. We basically followed wherever the front wheel took us, and it was pretty amazing! 

We left our house in Paso Robles about 4:15 a.m. When you are completing an Iron Butt ride, you must document each stop and obtain receipts at each location; this is how you prove the route you took. Our goal was to end up in Rexburg, Idaho, that night. It was a great ride. Ended up at 1,032 miles.

The next day was going to be another long one. We left Rexburg, and the goal was to go to Bismarck, N.D. It was slow going as we traveled through West Yellowstone since there were still a lot of tourists in the area. We rode 728 miles and really enjoyed the countryside. Heading north was the smart thing to do. We had weather that was just perfect. 

We traveled 611 miles on our third day and ended in Eau Claire, Wisc. Now, we could have made it all the way to Milwaukee, since it was only another 248 miles, but we stayed in Eau Claire for the night so we had a short ride the next day and wouldn’t be tired for Keith’s conference.

In 3.5 days we rode 2,533 miles. It was just awesome.

After the conference it was time to enjoy the ride as we were not on a schedule to return home. We knew we were Mt. Rushmore—bound but weren’t sure when we would arrive there. Well, we both felt good riding and decided to ride straight through and arrive 918 miles later to the illumination viewing at Mt. Rushmore. It was very cool.

The next morning we got to ride through Sturgis, check out the Spearfish Scenic Bypass, and make our way south to Colorado. We hit crazy weather in Wyoming which consisted of lots of lightning, quarter-sized hail, and 60 mph gusting winds. After many miles of that, we finally found an underpass to park under until the hail stopped.

From Ft. Collins, Colo., we were able to ride a dirt road up to the Rocky Mountain National Park to an elevation of more than 12,000 feet. Just beautiful views to take in from a motorcycle. I also saw a mountain goat up high in the canyon that made me squeal with excitement.

Next stop was Grand Junction, Colo., and we traveled 404 miles to where the weather got h-o-t.  When we left Ft. Collins, it was only 56, but temperatures rose almost 50 degrees to 104.  This is where being prepared is helpful.  We have these sleeves that you wet and wear under your riding jacket, and the air coming up your cuffs makes you feel like you have air conditioning on.  It helps to keep you cool and make the ride a little more bearable when conditions are on the hotter side.

We were excited for the ride from Grand Junction over to St. George, Utah.  Utah just has some beautiful scenery, and we couldn’t wait to take it in. It was an easy 408 miles as we stopped at each scenic view spot to take in the amazing landscapes. We got to ride some canyons and eat at some great spots along the way. But ending in St. George with 107 degrees meant it was time to jump in the pool and relax with a cold drink.

Strategically, we left really early to ride during the cooler temperatures for the last leg to get home. We also knew we’d gain an hour near Las Vegas.  We jumped on our bikes at 4 a.m. It was crazy to ride through Vegas that early and it was still 92 degrees outside. This whole day we knew would be a “hot” ride, and we had to stop every 60-90 minutes to wet our sleeves to keep the ride bearable. But we were so excited to travel the 526 miles home to see our black lab Enzo.

We utilize a Spot satellite tracker that was fun to share with our family and friends. We had a friend who is a pilot checking weather radar for us on our routes, parents Googling our locations and reading about where we were. Mostly, the Spot gave our parents peace of mind and excitement as they “traveled” alongside us. 

Our trip consisted of 10 days of riding, 5,285 miles, 31 fuel stops, 12 states, eight hotels, two tires (changed in Colorado), one hailstorm, and one Saddle Sore 1000 Iron Butt.

Would we do it again? Absolutely. The next trip we’d like to do is go up to Canada and hit Jasper, Banff, and Glacier parks. Can’t wait to start planning it. 

Monyeen Black, RPR, CRR, is a freelancer and agency owner in San Ramon, Calif.

Full coverage of the NCRA 2019 Convention & Expo

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