NCRA President-elect and others members showcased for entrepreneurship

Times of Entrepreneurship posted an article about women entrepreneurs that quotes NCRA President-elect Christine Phipps, RPR, North Palm Beach, Fla., and NCRA members and freelance court reporters Lauren Lawrence, RPR, and Meghan Minnick, RPR, both from Kansas City, Mo.

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Former NCRA member Herman Rosenfield passes away reported on June 30 that former NCRA member Herman Rosenfield, Southbury, Conn., passed away on June 18.

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Former NCRA member Patricia Burnard passes away reported on June 23 that former NCRA member Patricia Jo “Patti” (Preuss) Burnard passed away on June 17, 2020, at her home in Verona, Wis.

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Former NCRA member Barbara Zentz passes away

The Baltimore Sun reported on June 17 that former NCRA member Barbara Zentz, who spent four decades working as a court reporter in Baltimore City criminal courts and Baltimore County civil courts, passed away June 12.

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New Professional Profile: Douglas Armstrong

By Lauren Lawrence

Douglas Armstrong, RPR

Douglas Armstrong, RPR, is a freelance court reporter in Seattle, Wash. He is a 2018 graduate of the Green River College court reporting program and is the current chair of the school’s Court Reporting and Captioning Advisory Committee. He loves opera and animals and spends way too much time thinking about Academy Awards trivia. 

JCR | Why did you choose to become a court reporter?

DA | When my job of managing 200 employees in a pair of hair salons was eliminated without notice or ceremony after seven years, I didn’t know what I’d do next. I happened to read an article about the need for court reporters and the connection many reporters had to playing musical instruments, particularly piano, which I had played my whole life. I was a music major the first time I went to college. I contacted Green River College, met with the wonderful Lori Rapozo and Sidney Weldele-Wallace who sold me on the profession, and was enrolled within days. The rest is history.

JCR | Do you have any advice for reporting students?

DA | Hang on and then keep hanging on. Quitting is not an option. You can always switch to decaf after you graduate. Failed tests do not mean that you’re not getting better all the time. Start and end each practice session with something you know you’re good at. Associate with students and reporters who love what they’re doing and want to succeed; stay away from those who complain, make excuses, or demotivate others. Practice sometimes with distractions, like a rock band in the background (it happens in the real world) or writing to material where the speaker is yelling or crying (it definitely happens). Approach adversity as an opportunity to improve yourself and your skills and not something to fear. Picture yourself laughing a few years from now at what scares you now. When you think you’ve practiced enough, practice more.

JCR | What’s your “can’t live without” item in your steno bag? 

DA | I use public transportation whenever possible and deliberately travel as light as possible. I carry a briefcase-style bag with my Luminex and a backpack holding my lightweight Lenovo ThinkPad and only the essential accessories. A constantly replenished stash of protein bars and vegan jerky have definitely proven to be lifesavers on jobs that go straight through lunch.

JCR | What was life like as a student?

DA | I started school at age 33 and had to work full-time. I managed all aspects of a small, though very busy, vegan grocery store by day and did my online classes, homework, and practice by night. It was by far the most productive period of my life and also the most satisfying. I told myself often that the time would be passing anyway and that the hard work I was putting in was a gift I was able to give my future self. I was right, and there hasn’t been a day since where I haven’t felt immense gratitude for the opportunities opened to me by those years of effort.

JCR | What was your biggest challenge as a new reporter?

DA | Finding and defining my own voice as a reporter was an unexpected challenge. There’s the voice on paper, of making formatting, grammatical, and punctuation decisions where there seem to be as many options as there are reporters. There’s the voice in the deposition, learning to coolly and confidently interact with attorneys and experts to get what I need to do my job with minimal disruption to theirs. There’s the voice as a businessperson, advocating for myself in finding answers to unexpected questions on everything from taxes to software functionality. I’ve definitely found that what is the preferred solution for others doesn’t necessarily have to be the best answer for me, and that’s OK. I’m a perfectionist and I like absolutes, but I have had to learn to be comfortable with ambiguity and flexibility.

JCR | What’s the coolest experience you have had working in the profession?

DA | I’ve been a guest speaker a few times at the law school of a local university on panels where I was the only reporter among several attorneys. Surprisingly, I got the majority of the student questions from folks who were fascinated by our profession and how we work our magic. I also got the chance every reporter dreams of, to tell a room full of future lawyers the dos and don’ts of a great record from our perspective, like thinking a question all the way through before starting and stopping seven times midsentence or not interjecting an “OK” after every three words of a deponent’s answer.

JCR | What do you love about your career?

DA | I love meeting new people every day and hearing about careers, processes, lifestyles, and experiences I might not otherwise be exposed to. I love writing new voices and unfamiliar terms and phrases, as well as the daily challenge of adapting to and anticipating the unique patterns and rhythms of each job. I love watching smart people argue and not having to choose a side. I love working in a prison one day and a surgeon’s office the next. I love the flexibility of a freelance schedule and the editing time at home with my dog and cat. I love the way processing words through my fingers on a funny little machine tickles my brain and that I get paid for that.

JCR | If you weren’t a court reporter, what career would you be interested in pursuing?

DA | I’ve always felt I’d make an excellent monarch. If the opportunity ever comes along, I’ll consider it. Until then, I’ll keep reporting.

Lauren Lawrence, RPR, is from Kansas City, Mo.

Blended learning

By Carol Adams

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed education in our country. The quarantine forced schools to create online content quickly so students could continue their education virtually. Some teachers had to learn how to navigate the distance learning environment along with their students. Now that individual states are beginning to lift stay-at-home restrictions, many institutions are trying to balance how to offer face-to-face classes while keeping students and instructors safe and obeying social distancing and occupancy requirements. An answer to this may be blended learning.

Blended learning is instruction with both face-to-face and online components, also known as a hybrid course. Blended learning can offer the best of both traditional campus and online classes, one complementing the other. In today’s environment, one thought is to split classes into groups and have them alternate days on campus to maintain small class sizes. For example, a Monday/Wednesday/Friday class is split into three groups and each group attends campus classes on one day each week.

Here are a few benefits of utilizing blended learning courses:

  • Hybrid courses offer flexibility for students. They can access content at anytime, anywhere, which is important when juggling work and family.
  • Commuters are driving to campus fewer times a week, which saves time and gas money. 
  • Learners can review online content as many times as they need to master the concepts.
  • Streaming media – Ted Talks, podcasts, YouTube – allows students the opportunity to learn from outside resources and engage with professionals in the field.
  • Blended courses retain the human touch, plus the bonus of learning and interacting with new technology.
  • Classes with lab activities or other tasks that are difficult to complete virtually can be completed during the weekly classroom meeting.

There are challenges with implementing blended learning: 

  • There is an initial time investment for instructors, developing and then implementing content for two environments. Teachers may have difficulty managing the online classroom if they are not computer savvy.
  • Students with limited computer or internet access are going to struggle with the online component.
  • Learners who have issues with time management and organization may have trouble staying on task.

If you are interested in building a blended course, here are some additional considerations.  Start by focusing on the course objectives. Analyze what the students need to know when the course is completed, divide the material into manageable segments, and then organize the material into a weekly format. Look at the amount of time the students will be on campus each week and determine what learning activities would be best delivered face-to-face versus online. Best practices dictate that class time be used for discussion, group work, and tasks that cannot be completed virtually. Short lectures, voice-over PowerPoint presentations, podcasts, readings, and YouTube videos or other streaming media can be utilized for online learning content. Quizzes, discussion boards, worksheets, and blogs are all excellent online assessments to measure student success.

The syllabus must communicate both student and teacher expectations. Students need to know the best ways to communicate with you throughout the week and when they can expect feedback on assignments and responses to emails. The syllabus must set clear guidelines for student submissions and how the work will be evaluated. Learners need instruction on what is expected during classroom meetings and online each week.

Hybrid classes may be the answer for institutions in our current climate. If this model fits into your teaching strategy, my hope is these tips assist you in getting started.

Carol Adams, RPR, MCRI, is the Distance Education Director at Huntington Junior College in Huntington, W.V.

Students and teachers learn to cope with COVID-19

When stay-at-home orders were put in place across the country, brick-and-mortar schools were forced to shut their doors. The last couple of months have been challenging, but court reporting programs have found ways to adapt and serve the needs of their students during this unusual time. Whether they already had online programs in place, or are starting from scratch, everyone is learning to transition. Up-to-Speed asked teachers and students, “How are you coping with COVID-19?”

My speed building students are rocking right along in their daily assignments since we have the use of Blackboard at GSCC and Realtime Coach for all students. Since we are a brick and mortar school, the students are not fond of being absent from the classroom, their classmates, and the environment of being in school, but they are doing fine. Most prefer to be at school rather than home because school is their place of focus.

Testing has become much more of a challenge online because they get better feedback being in the classroom rather than getting it in an email. It has increased my workload tremendously to give them feedback on daily homework, classwork, and tests since I am not able to sit face-to-face with them. However, we are all adjusting and making it OK. I have actually had two graduate at the end of April!

I have made myself available as much as possible by using Facetime, texting, or phone calls. We are constantly coming up with new ways to make this transition of temporary online schooling as smooth as possible.

Our college has not yet determined when we will be back in the classroom, but hopefully it will be before summer is over, “God willing and the creek don’t rise.” It’s a Southern thing. 😉

Leah M. Elkins, CRI, CCR Instructor/Advisor, Gadsden State Community College (GSCC), Gadsden, Ala.

Many people may feel that online learning is difficult, but I love the flexibility of it. Since life as we know it has changed due to COVID 19, online learning is the perfect option for someone who is looking for a career path or a career change.

I currently work in a skilled nursing facility in which there are patients and staff who are COVID positive. Life is very stressful caring for these sick people and then worrying that I could possibly get my family sick. I have days in which I may work long hours and then days that may be much shorter. Due to this uncertainty and chaos, the ability to take every class online for the captioning and court reporting program has been wonderful. I am able to practice on the steno machine at my own convenience which could be before work on some days or after the kids go to bed on other days. Even though the course load may feel overwhelming at times, the ability to do the work during my free time has been a blessing.

For me, if I were doing a traditional in-class learning schedule, I would not be as successful. There would not be enough time in the day to go to class, work full time, and be able to spend quality time with by children and husband. Online learning was the perfect option for me.

Allison Berg, student, Cuyahoga Community College, Parma, Ohio

Even though SimplySteno has been exclusively online for the last 15 years, changes have been made during Covid-19 to increase the social aspect of the program in these times when social distancing is encouraged. That has meant adding more live classes, which is another opportunity for students to see other students. In addition, Covid-19 has inspired us to create an online social network exclusively for our students – a safe space where they can share their stories with others in the SimplySteno program. 

Marc Greenberg, CRI, SimplySteno

Our spring semester took on a new look due to COVID-19. We were actually one step ahead of the “new normal” by already starting to use a platform called Bluejeans to teach from, as well as for the students to attend classes from. We had started a pilot program using Bluejeans in the fall of 2018 to allow students who did not have access to one of our shared-program technical colleges to attend our program from their home or a place where they had the required internet capability. So, when the safer-at-home order hit, we were up and running immediately. All students just attended their live classes on their regular schedules via Bluejeans from their homes.

Jackie Rupnow, RPR, CRI, our other instructor, and I had a few challenges in getting all our materials together and utilizing my husband and Jackie’s daughter for our second voice for our testimony classes. We thank them both for stepping in to keep our students on track! We did also set up speed tests through Realtime Coach just in case for April and May, which the college paid for so there was no cost to the students for that additional Realtime Coach feature. 

With that said, all students were able to complete their spring courses, and we had one graduate for the spring semester. 

Barbi Galarno, RPR, CRI, M.S.Ed., Court Reporting Instructor, Lakeshore Technical College, Cleveland, Wisc.

It seemed as if the crisis just snuck up on all of us locally and around the country. We were all watching the news and aware of the statistics surrounding the virus across the country when suddenly, faculty and students at Tri-C were informed that we would all begin to work remotely.

The fact that we had an online program already established alleviated stress for our students as well as our faculty. It was truly a ready-set-go situation for us. Amid all kinds of other frustrations and worries as they determined how to manage changes in their professional workplace, support their children’s teachers, deal with loss of income, and worry about health, our students expressed that their classes were a nice break from those things. Students found tending to coursework without hesitation to be a welcome way to spend their time and a sense of relief while adjusting to their new normal. The need to finish up with their schooling became even more important as many students faced changes in their employment situations.

A community college with access to grants and support, Tri-C provided laptops to nearly 150 students in financial need. It also has programs to help students find other financial support, food sources, and counseling. Overwhelmingly, Tri-C’s students have done very well academically as they shoulder the coronavirus in these uncertain times.

Kelly Moranz, CRI, Program Director, Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C), Parma, Ohio

Stenopalooza inspires student

By Angela Rojo

Did anyone else see posts about Stenopalooza on social media? I can hear my teachers and other professionals in the industry telling me to put my phone down and to get back on my writer. Admittedly, social media is one of my weaknesses and such a time sucker. Anyway, Dineen Squillante, RPR, a freelance court reporter from Arlington, Vt., first planted the seed of attending Stenopalooza in one of her posts. After being invited to the Steno Strong group by Rich Germosen, RMR, CRR, a freelance court reporter from North Brunswick, N.J., and catching the infectious positive energy found there, signing up for the all-day seminar was a no-brainer.

I say no-brainer only because being aware of the trends in the industry will help me to be more effective once I transition from the role of student to that of Certified Shorthand Reporter (CSR). I want to be able to advocate compellingly for the profession (read, advocate compellingly for myself). My choice to attend Stenopalooza was fueled by my desire to become an in-demand, California CSR. I am a single mom, and school is tough. However, my family would be underserved if I failed to seek information readily available pertaining to my chosen future profession. Honing my writing skill is only one of the elements of playing a vital role in either the system of justice or providing an important service for those with hearing impairments. What do you depend on to stay informed? I depend on my teachers, coach, association conventions, and training events. Oh, and social media.

Out of the nine webinars I watched during Stenopalooza, my favorites were the Lights, Action, ZOOM – Improving the New Normal; Captioning Facebook Live; and POW Knowledge is Power and NCRA is FLEXING. These were among my favorites because I think of them as double-dipping. I learned practical tips and skills that can be utilized immediately in school, and they will also serve me well in my future as a professional.

The presentation about Zoom helped pinpoint some of the connection problems I’ve been running into while transitioning with my school’s now online classes. There were a few absolute light bulb moments! Hello, mesh router!

Completely over the top was the Facebook Live class. Denise Hinxman, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, a captioner from Reno, Nev., expertly walked attendees through clear steps. The presenters began with teaching us to seek out untapped and out-of-the-box opportunities, transitioned to training clients previously unfamiliar with the elevated service value, and really guided us through all the areas necessary to providing a polished, valuable service. My words dull the class a bit, but this presentation had serious value. Dineen ended the seminar with the words, “If we don’t market ourselves, nobody will do it for us.” Let that sink in. “Not out-skilled. We’ll be out-marketed.” Not to strike fear at all, but rather action. Her words prompted me to sit up straighter and pay closer attention. “Don’t assume that all lawyers and consumers of our products know that — what this job entails and the importance and sanctity that comes with it.” 

With all the resources available to us as students, it really is up to us to pass those tests and get out of school. I think of advocating and marketing ourselves as trusted, ethical professionals in the same way. It’s up to us.

In five years – nope, make that one year — I want to be prepared to have a meaningful conversation when the opportunity arises to advocate for myself. Like Rich said, “Look for someone who’s advocating and try to follow.” There are local and national groups, like Steno Strong, where students are invited to participate and get to know our future peers. I encourage you to do so. There are valuable resources available in each group and association I’ve encountered. Don’t be intimidated to get out there and introduce yourself. Attending the Stenopalooza Happy Hour event was a fun opportunity to “see” reporters relaxed and real. Students, we will be out there with our licenses and certifications sooner rather than later. Why not jump in on the socializing and educational activities now? I hope to see you next time!

Angela Rojo is a 180 word-per-minute student attending Argonaut/Charles A. Jones Court Reporter Program in Sacramento, Calif.

If you would like to purchase a webinar from the Stenopalooza event, please visit NCRA’s Continuing Education catalog.

Pennsylvania Court Reporters Association names new president

The Central Penn Business Journal reported on May 20 that NCRA member Linda C. Larson, RPR, CRI, a court reporter and owner of Premier Reporting in Harrisburg and Carlisle, Pa., has been named president of the Pennsylvania Court Reporters Association.

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NCRA retired member Robert Kerr Maloney passes away reported on May 15 that lifetime retired NCRA member Robert Kerr Maloney passed away on May 11 in Worcester, Mass.

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