NCRA A to Z Alumna Profile: From A to Z to RPR in two years

Taylor Lauren Nirschl

Next month, NCRA will have its first known court reporting program graduate who started in an NCRA A to ZTM  Intro to Steno Machine Shorthand program. Taylor Lauren Nirschl from Combined Locks, Wis., will be graduating in May with an Associate Degree in Applied Science in Court Reporting from Lakeshore Technical College, and she will also have another credential behind her name: RPR. Nirschl has some advice for students who are considering taking an A to Z program.

JCR | Is court reporting your first choice of career?

TLN | I would say yes, since my dad has been talking to me about court reporting since seventh grade. My dad works at a workforce development center. I did change my mind a couple of times, but I would always come back to court reporting.

JCR | What attracted you to learn more about it?

TLN | My dad told me how much money court reporters made.  As a seventh grader, that really got my attention. But as I got older, my attraction was more about the technology they use on their job, being in a courtroom, and just thinking about how important their job really is.

JCR | How did you hear about the NCRA A to Z program?

TLN | My parents mentioned that I should go sit with someone to see if this was something I wanted to do. I went back to the school to see if I could get a recommendation on a local court reporter to shadow, and that’s when I met Lori Baldauf.  While I was asking questions about shadowing a court reporter, Lori gave me a flyer about the program.

JCR | What prompted you to sign up for the program?

TLN | I had already signed up for the court reporting program [at Lakeshore Technical College] before I signed up for the A to Z program. I was waiting for school to begin. When Lori shared the information, I decided to sign up.

JCR | What surprised you most about learning steno in the A to Z program?

TLN | How you must learn a whole new alphabet; and the letters are not on the keys. The way you learn how to remember the keys. 

JCR | How soon after completing the A to Z program did you enroll in Lakeshore Technical College?

TLN | I took A to Z in the spring of 2017 and started court reporting school in the summer of 2017. I’m waiting to graduate next month!

JCR | Did you test for any NCRA certifications while in school?

TLN | Yes, I did.  I took the three legs of the RPR certification from October through December 2018 and the Written Knowledge Test in January 2019.  I passed the Written Knowledge Test my first time taking it. When I passed my Lit leg at school, I took the Lit leg of the RPR. It took me two times to pass the Lit leg, but only one time to pass the Jury and Testimony legs. I found testing for the RPR after I passed my legs in school helped me stay on track. I also had an added incentive from my teacher: get my RPR and I’m done with classes.  

JCR | What do you plan to do when you graduate – official, freelancer, broadcast captioner, CART provider?

TLN | I’d like to take a little break since I’ve gone straight through school. However, I would love to work in the court where Lori works, but they don’t have an opening yet. I’ve thought about doing CART.

JCR | What would you say to others considering career choices to encourage them to enroll in the NCRA A to Z program?

TLN | I would definitely encourage anyone interested in court reporting to take the NCRA A to Z program. I think that is what got me through school so fast. It gives you a great head start above everyone else. You already know your letters, so you are able to focus on your short forms and theory. I also think I had more confidence when I started the program and when I attended orientation. When I attended orientation, we got an opportunity to write on the machines. I remembered my letters and easy words like “egg.” I also already knew a few people from participating in NCRA A to Z, which provided me with a ready-made community.

Taylor is currently working toward earning NCRA’s Certified Realtime Captioner (CRC) certification. For more information on the NCRA A to Z program or to learn about the court reporting and captioning professions, visit DiscoverSteno.org.

NCRF scholarships – open to qualifying students at any court reporting program

The National Court Reporters Foundation (NCRF) is now accepting nominations for the Robert H. Clark and Frank Sarli Memorial scholarships for students, as well as applications for the New Professional Reporter Grant. The deadline for all of these awards is June 1. Beginning this year, all NCRF scholarships are open to NCRA student members enrolled in any court reporting program, not just NCRA approved programs. The New Professional Reporter Grant is now open to qualifying graduates of any court reporting program.

The Robert H. Clark and Frank Sarli Memorial scholarships are awarded to high-achieving students nearing the end of their court reporting program who meet a number of criteria, including current student membership in NCRA, having passed at least one Q&A test at a minimum of 200 wpm, and a GPA of at least 3.5 based on a 4.0 standard.

 “This [scholarship] has given me an extra boost of motivation and confidence I needed while I head into my final semester,” said Megan Baeten upon receiving the Frank Sarli Memorial Scholarship in 2018. “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 New Professional Reporter Grant is given to a promising working reporter in his/her first year out of school who meets a number of criteria, including current NCRA membership, a graduating GPA of at least 3.5 on a 4.0 standard, and a recommendation from the person’s current employer.

Students looking for scholarships can also consider the CASE scholarships and NCRA A to Z ™ scholarships. Deadlines for these two scholarships, which are also supported by funds from NCRF, have been extended to April 19.

More scholarships and other NCRF programs can be found by visiting NCRA.org/NCRF.

Remember to nominate for awards and scholarships, including the all-new NCRA A to Z scholarships

Time is running out to recognize someone special! Every year, NCRA offers members several scholarships and awards to bring attention to the people who are contributing to the profession in important ways. In addition to the annual scholarships managed by the Council on Approved Student Education (CASE), the National Court Reporters Foundation has initiated an all-new scholarship to help students who have completed the NCRA A to Z™ Intro to Steno Machine Shorthand program with the next step in their training. Scholarships are supported by funds from the National Court Reporters Foundation (NCRF).

Nominations are now open, so consider nominating individuals for these special opportunities:

CASE scholarships. Five scholarships are available. Students attending an NCRA-approved court reporting program and writing between 140 and 180 wpm are encouraged to apply for this scholarship. Teachers and mentors, let them know that you see their potential. The nomination period closes April 1.  

NCRA A to Z ™ scholarshipsUp to 10 students will receive a $500 scholarship. Qualified applicants must have completed the NCRA A to Z™ Intro to Steno Machine Shorthand program as well as pass a skills test writing between 60 and 100 wpm, among other eligibility requirements. Nominations close April 1.

 CASE Educator of the YearThis special award is for a court reporting instructor. Was there someone special who inspired you, who got you through the ups, downs, and plateaus of your court reporting classes? If your teacher was an incredible influence in you getting started, now is the time to say thank you by nominating that special someone for the CASE Educator of the Year Award. Nominations close April 1.

Fellow of the Academy of Professional ReportersIf you know a dedicated court reporter or captioner who has contributed to the profession in a big way over the years, nominate that person as a Fellow. Candidates must be active practitioners in the field and have at least 10 years of experience. Criteria for nomination include the publication of important papers, legislative or creative contributions to the field, and service on committees or boards. Nominations close April 1.

Share these videos to promote the profession

“I can go to any city I want,” Isaiah Roberts

Just in time for 2019 Court Reporting & Captioning week, NCRA has  released a series of shareable videos that promote the profession from the perspectives of a variety of stenographers with different stories about how they got started, why they love what they do, and how the profession has enhanced their lives.

Share these videos on social media and email them to your friends to spread the word about the opportunities in this field. It’s a great thing to do this week or anytime you want to promote the profession.

Just in time for 2019 Court Reporting & Captioning week, we have new videos ready to share. You might have seen them on the NCRA Facebook page this week. The videos show NCRA members saying why they love what they do. They highlight the different reasons being a court reporter or captioner is a great career choice.

We urge you to share these videos on social media to spread the word about all the opportunity in our field. It’s a great thing to do this week or anytime you want to promote the profession.

The videos are:

Nothing can compare to this job with Pam and Danielle Griffin

I was so lucky to stumble upon this job with Nancy Hopp

It’s a career that I absolutely love with Charrise Kitt

Seated close to former President Obama with Steve Clark

You can grow this career to anything you need it to be with Merilee Johnson

I can go to any city I want with Isaiah Roberts

If you know people interested in taking the first steps to a career in court reporting or captioning, send them to ncra.org/discoversteno.

Students receive grant for NCRA memberships

Kudos to Mary Beth Johnson, CRI, Court Reporting Program Coordinator at Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) in Pittsburgh, Pa., for supporting her students and NCRA at the same time! Last spring, Johnson applied for a grant through the Continuous Quality Improvement fund at CCAC. This fund “exists to provide immediate financial assistance to faculty members striving to improve student learning outcomes, program objectives and/or general education,” per the college’s policies. 

“At the Community College of Allegheny County, we are continuously looking for ways to engage students outside of the classroom,” Johnson told Up-to-Speed. “To that end, I proposed funding NCRA membership. As you know, I have been a lifelong member, serving on the student community of interest for many years. I am a strong believer in the benefits of student membership in professional organizations. All of our students are also members of the Pennsylvania Court Reporters Association.”

In her application for the fund, Johnson outlined a learning gap she believes her students are facing. “Students are not acquainted with tools to overcome the challenge of becoming relevant and updated in the court reporting profession. Students do not subscribe to professional journals or attend networking sessions where they can interact with working court reporters.” This gap, she believes, could be closed by offering subsidized NCRA memberships to all her students.

Membership in NCRA is not just a way for students to succeed while they are in school; it is a way for them to lay the foundation of a lifelong career. “Student membership in professional organizations is considered a pathway to success,” Johnson also wrote in her application. “By supporting student membership in professional organizations, we are breaking new ground and encouraging engagement with colleagues in the court reporting profession.”

Johnson was awarded the grant last spring, but the amount fell just short of covering the cost of NCRA student memberships for all 33 of her students at CCAC. Johnson worked with Susan Simmons, Membership & Events Specialist at NCRA, to solicit donations from anonymous members to cover the cost needed for the final two memberships.

“We are proud to be part of such a committed, passionate, and dedicated community of professionals!” said Johnson.

Mary Beth Johnson, CRI, is Court Reporting Program Coordinator at CCAC in Pittsburgh, Pa. She can be reached at mjohnson@ccac.edu.

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.

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.








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.








Guest speaker opportunity at a community college

NCRA member Penny Wile, RMR, CRR, owner of Penny Wile Court Reporting in Norfolk, Va., has been a court reporter for more than 30 years. Recently she showcased the court reporting and captioning profession to students in a paralegal course taught at her local community college.

By Penny Wile

Penny Wile talks to paralegal students

Approximately three months ago I took the deposition of a risk management specialist for a national chain of stores. It was a run-of-the-mill 30(b)(6) document production deposition stemming from an accident that resulted in a personal injury claim being filed. Plaintiff and defense appeared via video-teleconference, and the witness and I were together at the deposition site.

The deposition took most of the day, and during breaks the witness asked me questions about court reporting. We chatted about my profession and hers. Not only is she a risk management specialist, but she teaches a paralegal course locally, at Tidewater Community College on Thursday evenings.

At the conclusion of the deposition she asked if I would be interested in speaking to her class about court reporting. I eagerly agreed! Anytime I can attempt to recruit others to join the profession, I am happy to help.

We set several dates for me to appear, but there were delays. (Note to self: Don’t plan speaking engagements during hurricane season!)

I reached out to NCRA and asked if they could provide tools for me to use in my talk. I quickly received literature to download and print. The next day I received a box of print media and goodies for the class. I purchased some clear bags with handles and filled them with important information about court reporting:  History, training, career rewards and challenges, in addition to the goodies.

On Nov. 29, I spoke to the classroom of paralegal students. The students were eager to learn about the reporting profession. I started with a once-upon-a-time story of how I entered the profession. It’s not a glamorous story but one that should be told. They appeared to appreciate how I entered the profession. These students work during the day, have family obligations, and attend college at night. They are real people with busy lives trying to receive an education. They asked me many questions and seemed to be engaged. I spoke to them about my work abroad, some of the more rewarding assignments I have covered in my career, some of the unusual assignments I have covered, and gave them court reporting 101 in two hours .

Penny Wile sets up her machine for paralegal students

Two students in particular were very interested in training with the NCRA A to ZTM Program.  They were excited they could “try out” reporting and see if it would be a good fit for them. I provided my contact information and told them I would be happy to help them if they pursued training in the profession.

When my talk wrapped up, I couldn’t believe I had spoken for two hours! I have been invited back to be a guest speaker for the upcoming semester, and I look forward to the opportunity to inform and encourage others to enter the field of court reporting.

You can also read Career Days are great ways to promote the profession.

For more information about career day resources that are available from NCRA, contact pr@ncra.org, or visit the 2019 Court Reporting & Captioning Resource page.








The importance of reading back shorthand notes

By Kay Moody

Kay Moody

One of the key elements in developing speed and accuracy in machine shorthand is reading from your shorthand notes. Too often students think it’s unimportant, that it takes too much time, and that it doesn’t benefit them. Reading your shorthand notes is extremely important!

When I was in court reporting school many years ago, I, too, did not know the value of reading and correcting my shorthand notes. In those days, our steno machines produced paper notes in shorthand, and we could pull them up and correct our misstrokes. I’d been in school for three years and hadn’t passed a test in over a year. Unfortunately, I was attending a school that didn’t emphasize readback. We wrote and wrote and wrote on our machines in class. After class, I worked on speedbuilding tapes and wrote and wrote and wrote more on my machine. But it seemed that the more I wrote, the more I practiced, the less I progressed. I felt I was losing, not gaining speed. I was sure I would never get past 140 words a minute; but before giving up, I transferred and commuted more than an hour a day to another school with a fellow court reporting student.

The first day at the new school, the teacher admonished us for reusing our paper and not reading our shorthand notes. During break, we each bought a pad of steno paper, loaded the fresh paper into our machines, and went back to class. Unable to read the steno we had just written, we passed when it was our turn to read. Instead, we diligently corrected our notes when other students in class read back. Later we read our corrected notes to each other on the train ride home. Instead of practicing on my machine, I read my corrected notes two more times at home, and we read them again the next day on the train. After a few weeks of reading and rereading our notes, we both began to pass tests; and within a year, we went from 140 wpm to 225! We both learned the hard way that reading, correcting, and evaluating shorthand notes are essential in developing machine shorthand speed.

Use the following technique when you read your shorthand notes

1. Read the raw steno from your vertical notes, not from the realtime translation screen. Your vertical notes resemble the paper notes we used to use before CAT software. When working on speedbuilding, you should not watch the translation of what you are writing, nor should you watch your computer screen when building speed.

2. Check with your teacher or CAT manual and print out a set of raw vertical steno notes at least once a day so you can read, correct, and evaluate your writing. Use a red pen to correct your notes when reading them. Just reading your notes is fairly effective, but for maximum productivity that programs your subconscious brain, quickly correct a set of paper notes with a red pen. When reading and correcting your shorthand notes, you should have the following objectives:

  • Identify your drops. Each time you drop a word, put a slash (/) with the red pen on the paper notes. At the end of the selection, count the slashes and write how many words you dropped. Circle the number of dropped words. Don’t count dropped outlines, but count dropped words. If you dropped a three-word phrase, count that as three dropped words (/ / /). Repeat writing the selection, and force yourself to get more words on each take. In other words, if you dropped 15 words on the first take of a selection, your goal is to get five more words each time you write it until you can write the entire selection without dropping an outline.
  • Indicate misstrokes with a red pen. You may put a check (ü) exactly where a misstroke occurred or you may write the correct letter. To save time and quickly correct your notes, write the English letter, not the machine shorthand keys. For example, if you wrote an initial S- when you wanted an initial D-, write D not TK.
  • Read your notes out loud whenever possible. A fundamental learning principle is that students learn twice as fast when they hear and see something at the same time; therefore, always try to read your notes out loud. When practicing from recorded dictation, replay the selection and read from your notes along with the tape.

The importance of readback is not just my opinion based on my experience in court reporting school; it is based on many studies of how learning takes place and how psychomotor skills are developed. Reading your notes and correcting them with a red pen conditions or programs your subconscious brain to write the correct shorthand. If you repeatedly make the same correction on a steno outline, you will eventually write the correct outline. It’s based on Pavlov’s theory known as “classical conditioning.” Learned psychologists have applied Pavlov’s theory to developing psychomotor skills in humans. For example, do certain songs remind you of something in your past? Does the scent of a perfume or soap have a pleasant or unpleasant memory? Do you salivate when you smell chocolate or freshly baked bread? If so, these are forms of classical conditioning. Building speed and skill are developed by applying Pavlov’s theory using stimulus and response when you read your steno and repeatedly mark incorrect outlines; and it directly results in developing skill and speed.

Learning is accomplished faster when you employ more than one learning principle. You learn, store, and process information when you see something, when you hear something, when you read something, when you write something, or when you repeat and say something. You learn best when you incorporate many senses together: writing shorthand outlines; reading, visualizing, and correcting steno outlines with your red pen; and hearing them one more time when you read out loud from your shorthand.

In conclusion, reading back and correcting your shorthand notes are probably the most important elements in developing speed and accuracy in writing machine shorthand.

 Kay Moody, MCRI, CPE, an instructor at College of Court Reporting in Valparaiso, Ind.