Sharing her enthusiasm and her realtime

By Jessica Wills

Jessica Wills, a student at the College of Court Reporting in Valparaiso, Ind., volunteered to boost her school’s recruiting efforts by putting on a realtime demonstration at a local high school career fair. She was nervous at first, especially when she found out her realtime was being projected on a large screen. But she soon won over her audience with her speed and accuracy.

Jessica Wills

I attended Wheeler High School’s career fair on behalf of my school, College of Court Reporting (CCR) in Valparaiso, Ind. I wanted to help promote the profession and help students get a better understanding of what court reporters do. Upon agreeing to speak at the career fair, I thought I would set up a booth and provide information to the high schoolers about court reporting and, of course, bring my machine along to show them what it looks like. Little did I know that I would be providing realtime while Nicky Rodriquez, the Director of Admissions for CCR, did all the talking!

As a student, I have never had the need to have my CAT software enlarged on a projector to show my realtime. I don’t think I have ever been so nervous! However, Nicky assured me it would be just fine, and that translation and realtime capability is part of what interests students so much and will hopefully draw them in to wanting to learn more about the profession.

While Nicky explained the role of a court reporter, I wrote every word she said while the realtime came up on the overhead board. I found that although my notes weren’t perfect, the students hardly knew because they were so fascinated by the skill and how steno woks. I explained to them that I can typically read my misstrokes and correct them, or I can define them in my dictionary so that they will come up correct next time. 

With each round of students, I began to feel a little more comfortable. To impress them even more, we had a competition by having them pull out their cell phones and write along with me to a 120 wpm dictation. At the end, I read my notes back, which were clean and exact, while they found they dropped whole sentences! They were amazed by how accurately I recorded each word. I think I did a good job of demonstrating how accurate and efficient court reporters are in capturing verbatim dialogue.

Although I knew that writing realtime would not be easy, I managed to get over my nerves and present a clean realtime feed. I told the students that I take pride in this profession because it’s a unique career and a challenging skill.  I truly love explaining to others how shorthand works and what I will be doing for my career. I am proud to say that I’ve worked hard to be where I am today and will always look to better my writing and improve my skills as a reporter. Through court reporting school, I gained a feeling of self-accomplishment, and I look forward to achieving even more throughout this journey.   

Jessica Wills is a student at the College of Court Reporting in Valparaiso, Ind.

From intern to official

By Callie Sajdera

Callie Sajdera

In theory, I couldn’t wait to get to Realtime VI (200-225 wpm). In Realtime VI, I couldn’t wait to intern. While I interned, I couldn’t wait to work. Here I am, six months later, working my dream job in my dream city. I’m Callie Sajdera, an official reporter for the Second Judicial District of Denver, Colo.  I graduated from Anoka Technical College in Anoka, Minn., in June of 2018. I have been an official reporter since October of 2018, and all I can say is that I truly love my job. 

In March, I did part of my internship in the very courthouse where I am now currently employed. I knew after I finished my internship that Colorado, specifically the Lindsey-Flannigan Courthouse, was where I wanted and needed to be. I was going to get there some way, somehow. Everyone has experienced the transition from a student to a professional, whether it be freelance, official, CART, or captioning, and we all know how terrifying it was at the very beginning. There’s no doubt that you will make a mistake along the way, there will be questions you’ll feel silly for asking, and you will fall into a “newbie  trap.” 

The hardest part about my transition to an official was finding a job. Like I said before, I knew I wanted to be in Denver and I knew I’d get there, but I didn’t expect it to happen right away. A challenge that I came across while job hunting was the intimidating factor of holding the Registered Professional Reporter (RPR).  So many times as I was filling out the application for a job, there would be a box that you check to confirm that you held your RPR. If you didn’t check that box, your application was terminated and you couldn’t move forward. That was discouraging since I was currently working on my RPR and still am, but I was not going to let that stop me.

A month later, I received an email from the Court Reporting Administrator for Denver, who is now my boss, and she informed me of a position that became open and encouraged me to apply. I was open and honest about not holding my RPR certification, and she said: “I want you to apply.” I applied; I got an interview; I got the job. I later learned the impression that I made as an intern here in March helped me land my job. My boss fought for me. She knew hiring a new grad with only internship experience could be a risk, but that was a risk she was willing to take.  

For students who are reading this, being a new professional is hard. The amount of knowledge you learn is astronomical, and at times it can be scary. As a new professional, it has been so important for me to know that it’s OK to make mistakes, just don’t hold onto them for long.  Ask every question that comes to mind, because having the correct answer is always better than trying to guess.  As for the “newbie traps,” they are unavoidable, but I have an amazing work family that picks me up and helps me through them. As I’m sure everyone has been told throughout school: “If you’re comfortable, you’re not growing.” If there’s one piece of advice through this article, it would be to push yourself to be uncomfortable, grow in this profession, and always practice to be the best professional you can be.  

Callie Sajdera is an official reporter for the Second Judicial District of Denver, Colo. She can be reached at callie.sajdera@judicial.state.co.us.

Q&A: Checking in with Joe Aurelio

Santo “Joe” Aurelio, FAPR, RDR (Ret.), has always had an attraction to the English language, first as a court reporter and later as a professor of English. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Harvard University, and a doctorate in education from Boston University. After he retired from reporting because of a hearing loss, he became a visiting professor at colleges in the Boston area. He teaches a variety of subjects, but mainly English grammar and medicolegal terminology. He will be teaching a live webinar, Homonyms & Pseudohomonyms: The Nemesis of Reporters, Part 3 on Jan. 30, 6-7:30 p.m. ET. The JCR caught up with him to find out a little more about his background and the reason behind his interest in this topic.

Tell us a little about your career.

I started night school at the Boston Stenotype Institute, and on the first night I met a girl, Josephine, who later became my wife.

I ranged all over Massachusetts during my career. During my 39 years, I had a wealth of experiences. I took some important cases (my first murder case was my first case in Korea!) I met some dynamic attorneys while working at the state labor department. My job at the federal agency was to travel around New England taking the testimony from disabled applicants for Social Security aid (some of that was sad). My first case in Superior Court was a criminal case (I was to take many of those). Other than some horrendous murder cases, possibly the two most important cases that I took in Superior Court: one involved the New England Patriots football team and the other, of course, was the Boston Strangler. In a sentence, I’ve had an interesting reporting career with fine memories and opportunities to meet and/or report important persons.

When did you become an NCRA member?

I became an NCRA member, I believe, in 1957. I did so because I believe in unity. When reporters gather together and unite, they have strength and can chart their future course or at least help to chart that course. When reporters join, their dues help to pay for professional advice and lobbying efforts. It’s patently unfair for unregistered reporters to have the benefit of all of the strides that their fellow registered reporters have worked hard for. I am solidly aligned with local, regional, and national unions!

What started your interest in learning more about language than just what you needed for court reporting?

Even as a little kid of 10 or so, I would fool around with language (I’ll be back in a flash with some cash in my sash). Later I remember saying such things as “She would feint a faint.” I was always very interested in homonyms (such as made/maid) and what I would call pseudohomonyms (accede/exceed). In short, I was interested in language many years before I started stenotype reporting. I remember when I was about 14, there was a manual typewriter at the train station where I used to sell newspapers, and I used to put in a quarter to unlock it so that I could type on it for 30 minutes.

If you remember your days from your master’s and doctorate, what did you find was the difference you brought to your studies as a court reporter?

I went back to school late. I was almost 50 when I started my serious studying. My bachelor’s was 1983, the master’s was 1985, and the doctorate was 1989. What I think I brought to my studies was a deep focus that I had to use as a reporter: listening very carefully to every word spoken. In other words, because I was so serious about listening to and capturing every single word in court, I think that that held me in great stead in listening to my professors.

Frankly, it was very difficult to earn three degrees at night while working full-time in a busy court. How’d I do it? By being very motivated because I saw the handwriting on the wall: my hearing loss was making my daily job hard to do. I only succeeded in performing a creditable job in court by having a lot of speed (I passed a 280) and knowing and liking a great deal of English. And that’s how I lasted until 1990. (I wanted to teach in college, and to do that, one needs a lot of degrees.)

You’ve given one seminar for NCRA members recently, and you’re planning another one. What do you hope court reporters and captioners learn from your sessions?

I’ve done one webinar, and soon I’ll do another. I know that a lot of people, including reporters, have great difficulty with English, especially homonyms and pseudohomonyms. Mistakes are being made daily, and the reporters who commit them are not even aware that they’re using the wrong word or spelling a word incorrectly or malpunctuating a sentence. Well, even though I haven’t touched a stenotype since 1990, I still consider myself a reporter, and I feel that it’s my duty to correct or to help correct those who make those types of errors — and I want to do that until I hang up my skates. What I hope reporters will learn from these webinars is that I’d like all of them to learn and use the correct word or punctuation always.

Is there some advice that you would like all reporters and captioners to take to heart?

My advice to all reporters and captioners is to have the highest respect and fealty to the art and profession of reporting. It is an honorable profession. Think of it: Reporters are responsible for taking and transcribing all of the words of everybody. What could be more important than that? I rest my case.

Spotlight on a new professional: Melissa Case

Melissa Case

Melissa Case worked hard to get through school.  She has gone on to work in freelance and court.  In this interview, she imparts wisdom about the schooling process and what to expect when you start a professional career.

JCR Weekly |Tell me about your career path and what drew you into court reporting.

MC |I had a friend who was in court reporting already. She took me around her courthouse for a day, and I fell in love with the profession.  I was in freelance for three years and then obtained my RPR and became an official.  I’ve been there for just over two years.

JCR Weekly |What school did you attend, and how long did it take you to graduate?

MC | I went to Stark State in Canton, Ohio.  It took me just under four years to graduate.

JCR Weekly |What are some things that you like and dislike about professional court reporting so far?

MC |I love my career.  I work in a great courthouse with awesome coworkers. My dislike would be how sore my wrists, forearms, and shoulders can get during a trial.

JCR Weekly |You have done freelance as well as court work.  Can you describe some of the pros and cons to freelance versus official work?

MC |The pro of being in freelance is the flexibility in your schedule.  If you don’t want to work that day, you don’t have to.  The pros of working as an official are the benefits, vacation time, and more steady work.

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

MC |My coolest experience has been a trial about gambling.  I learned all about different table games.

JCR Weekly |What advice can you give to court reporting students?

MC |Work hard, but enjoy the journey.  You’ll fail tests.  It happens.  But celebrate every little win you can. Look back and remember when you wished you were where you are now.

JCR Weekly |What did you do to remain positive and motivated in school?

MC |I celebrated the wins!  I also would reach out to talk to as many experienced reporters in my area as I could.

JCR Weekly |How difficult was it to obtain your first job after graduating?

MC |Not difficult at all.  I had a job before I graduated.

JCR Weekly |What are some goals down the road for your career?

MC |Future goals are the RMR and CRR.

Ashley Stahl is a freelance reporter in Tempe, Ariz., and a member of the NCRA New Professionals Committee.

15 minutes a day for Michelle

By Rich Germosen

A few weeks after the NCRA Convention & Expo in San Francisco, in September 2014, I started a practice page on Facebook. My goal was to get more consistent with my steno practice. I would always practice, but then life would get in the way and I might not practice for a week or so. I wanted consistency and accountability. So I started the 100-day-challenge practice page on Facebook where you would report your practice once per day in a post. Members would encourage each other to keep their streaks going.

When I first started, I posted both my exercise and my steno to the 100-day exercise page I was already part of. Anne Vosburgh, a reporter friend who was in the practice group, suggested I make a 100-day page for just steno. She told me: Make the page and they will come. After a year or so, I made the group secret and put in the rules that you will be removed if you’re not participating. We’re now a relatively small group of anywhere between 130 to 140 members.

I felt if I had a page to post my practice to, that it would keep me going so that I would not skip any days of practice. It is so easy to not practice. But, today, it feels strange not practicing. If I have a job at 9 a.m. in New York City, I set my alarm for 3:59 to get my 15 minutes in before catching the train. The rules for the group are simple, or I think they are at least: Practice 15 minutes per day for 100 straight days without missing a day and post your practice once per day; for instance, “Day 1/100: 15 minutes of Q&A at 250,” or whatever it was. If you stop practicing, you are gently removed from the page.

I keep track of everyone’s milestones, and everyone encourages everyone else. We have a handful of students on there, but the majority of the people in the group are working reporters who want to improve. Personally, I feel I’ve improved a lot. Since starting the page, I’ve received three medals total, my first at the Deposition Reporters Association’s contest in 2017, third place in the 190 wpm Q&A; second place in the Q&A Realtime Contest in Las Vegas at NCRA’s 2017 Convention & Expo; and third place in the Q&A Speed Contest at NCRA’s 2018 Convention & Expo in New Orleans. Likewise, just about everyone who is on the page has mentioned that they see the improvement when they practice, as well as a decline if they take time out from practice.

Michelle Grimes and the 100-day-challenge group

In 2016, one of the members of the group, Michelle Grimes from Chicago, shared with us that she had cancer. Michelle felt safe in sharing with us that she was going through treatments. Through all of this, Michelle somehow kept practicing. It was very inspiring. She completed three 100-day challenges in total. While Michelle was going through treatments, another one of the group’s members, Allison “Allie” Hall, RMR, CRR, started something new by posting an extra 15 minutes for Michelle. It inspired several other people to post “15 minutes for Michelle” in addition to their regular 15 minutes. This means people were putting in a total of 30 minutes per day: 15 regular minutes and 15 for Michelle. We had a lot of members doing the extra 15 minutes for Michelle.

On May 11, 2017, Michelle passed away. She practiced right up until a week or so of passing. The thought on the page was if Michelle could practice through all this, we should practice consistently. Going from 15 minutes to 30 minutes was extremely challenging, especially on days where I’ve been on the record for 7 hours. I find I have to get my practice done before leaving for my 6 a.m. train. It doesn’t sound like a lot more, but 30 minutes is a lot more to do for 100 consecutive days.

I started a countdown of 100 days before the NCRA Speed Contest as a Michelle Challenge. We started on April 24, 2018. The 100th day was August 1, 2018, the day of the Speed Contest in New Orleans.

Nine members participated in the Speed Contest Michelle Challenge. She has left quite a legacy: She inspired us all to never stop improving and to keep practicing. I dedicated both of my NCRA medals — one in 2017 and one this past Convention in NOLA — to Michelle Grimes. She inspired me to practice more and always to improve and get better. Ron Cook, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, received a medal in NOLA and also did the Michelle Challenge prior to Convention, as well as Traci Mertens, RDR, CRR, CRC. We had a lot of qualifiers, including Allie Hall and Melanie Humphrey-Sonntag, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC.

I am confident, if it were not for Michelle Grimes and our special challenge to honor her, I would not have gone ahead and done 30 minutes per day for 100 days. I would have had good intentions, but deep down inside, I know it was all Michelle pushing us all to be better writers. I encourage you to start your own practice group and make it a goal to improve a little bit each day.

Rich Germosen, RMR, CRR, is a freelance court reporter and agency owner from North Brunswick, N.J. He also holds the Realtime Systems Administrator certificate.








Letter from the President: Moving forward in 2019

By Sue Terry

It’s a great new day at NCRA! I want to communicate with you some recent changes in the leadership of your organization.

As previously announced via social media and email to you, our members, I’m pleased to announce the return of Dave Wenhold, CAE, as NCRA’s Interim CEO & Executive Director and lobbyist. Jeffrey Altman of Whiteford, Taylor & Preston has also returned to serve as NCRA general counsel. Both bring forward-looking vision and vast institutional knowledge, as well as a historical background of the culture of our Association that can serve us all as we bring our membership into the future.

I’m also pleased to announce the four new Board members who stepped up at a moment’s notice to fill the recently vacated Board positions: Jason Meadors, FAPR, RPR, CRR, CRC, of Fort Collins, Colo.; Sarah Nageotte, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, of Jefferson, Ohio; Brooke Ryan, RPR, of Sacramento, Calif.; and Heidi Thomas, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, of Acworth, Ga. They represent teamwork and diversity of opinion with unwavering respect for the principle that they are endlessly committed to the mission of NCRA and protection of our profession.

NCRA is grateful for your continued loyalty and support and understands that membership is a choice we all make. I’ve been honored to be able to represent your interests and will always have you, the member, in mind when decisions are made that affect your future and the health of the profession. All the best for 2019!








Applications open for VCRA scholarship

The Virginia Court Reporters Association (VCRA) will be holding its Education Day this year on March 23 in Richmond, Va., where it will award a scholarship of up to $1,000 to a student who has passed at least one of their court reporting program’s tests of a minimum of 160 words per minute.

Applicants can be from any state and be enrolled in a court reporting program that is either online or brick and mortar. Eligible students must also submit an essay and possibly be interviewed via telephone by a member of VCRA’s Education Fund Committee. The deadline to apply has been extended to Jan. 31.

The scholarship is being funded by the Carolyn M. O’Connor Education Fund, which celebrates the life of Carolyn Morris O’Connor. The fund was set up to honor O’Connor’s memory and the great contributions she made to the field of court reporting.

For more information, contact VCRA at VCRAexecutivedirector@gmail.com. Interested students can also download an application here.








Former NCRA member passes away

The Sumter Item reported on Jan. 3 that past NCRA member Virginia Gregory Roland, 67, of West Columbia, S.C., passed away peacefully on Sunday, Dec. 30, 2018. She worked as a circuit court reporter in the state of South Carolina Criminal Court for 20 years.

Read more.








NCRF announces 2018 recipients of the Frank Sarli Memorial Scholarship and Student Intern Scholarship

Megan Baeten

The National Court Reporters Foundation (NCRF) has announced that Megan Baeten, a student from Lakeshore Technical College in Cleveland, Wis., was named recipient of the 2018 Frank Sarli Memorial Scholarship. The Foundation also announced that Mackenzie Allen and Tanner Kockler, both students from the Des Moines Area Community College in Newton, Iowa, are the recipients of the 2018 Student Intern Scholarships. The recipients are selected by random drawing using a true random statistical tool.

Frank Sarli Memorial Scholarship

“I have known of the court reporting profession since my senior year in high school and have always wanted to pursue this career. At that time, this program was not offered close to home, so I decided to pursue the administrative assistant career path instead. After working in that field for a number of years, I realized that there was little room for advancement and that it was not challenging enough for me,” said Baeten. “This [scholarship] has given me an extra boost of motivation and confidence I needed while I head into my final semester. It will help me with the cost of schooling for this last semester without the added stress of how I will pay for it. It will also help me with some of the start-up expenses upon graduating, as well as the certification fees.”

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

“Megan is truly deserving of this scholarship. This will be life-changing for her. Megan juggles being a single mom, working full-time, and going to school for court reporting. Yet she always shows up for class ready to go and does quality work,” said Jackie Rupnow, who nominated Baeten. “She is working on her terminal speeds and looks to graduate in May. This will help her finish out her last semester without worrying about finances, which will allow her to concentrate on her classes and practice so she can complete this program.”

Student Intern Scholarships

Tanner Kockler

“I thank NCRF for the awesome support they give students. I plan to apply [this scholarship] toward my remaining classes and testing fees as I get ready to graduate,” said Kockler. “I had briefly heard what court reporting was, and I did not know very much about it when I started the program. The encouragement from other reporters and instructors and associations like NCRA and ICRA make it easy to want to be a part of such a wonderful profession.”

The Student Intern Scholarship is a $1,000 award, given annually to two high-achieving court reporting students who have completed the internship portion of their education. 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 program’s Q&A tests at a minimum of 190 wpm (if pursuing judicial reporting) or at least one literary test at a minimum of 160 wpm (if pursuing captioning)
  • possessing all the qualities exemplified by a professional court reporter, including professional attitude, demeanor, dress, and motivation

Mackenzie Allen

“My aunt was a court reporter for the state of Iowa. I job-shadowed her when I was in high school and was immediately captivated! I always knew I wanted to go into the legal field, and this career was a perfect fit for me,” said Allen. “Receiving this scholarship will help me purchase a new writer, and it will help ease the process of all of the start-up costs.”

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








NCRA members recognized with teaching awards

December 8, 2018 by NCRA

Gadsen State Community College, Gadsen, Ala., announced on Dec. 5 that NCRA members Michelle Roberts, CRI, and Brook Davis, CRI, court reporting instructors in the Court Reporting Program on the East Broad Campus, have been awarded the Eugene Prater Exceptional Achievement in Teaching Award, and the Staff Excellence in Service Award, respectively.

Read more.