New Professional Spotlight: Caitlin Albrecht

Caitlin Albrecht

By Jan Ballman, FAPR, RPR, CMRS

Caitlin Albrecht is a freelancer from Plymouth, Minn., who graduated from Anoka Technical College in Anoka, Minn.

JCR | What was the hardest part of transitioning from school to the real world?

CA | For me, it was the realization that my writing was still my writing.  It may sound silly, but whenever I thought about that far-off day when I passed my last test and sailed out of school on cloud nine, I believed that a magic switch would flip, and I would suddenly have stellar writing.  No longer would my hands freeze up and my heart start pounding its way out of my chest.  From now on, writing would be a breeze as I focused on the finer things of life, like what steno machine I would select or what I would do with all the extra cash now that I was working.  I can smile and shake my head now at my naïveté, but at the time, the shock of realizing I had to now take professional jobs and still deal with that paralyzing stress threw me into a tailspin. 

JCR | What do you know now that you wish you’d known when you first started out?

CA | That it’s OK to not be perfect.  While I still strive for perfection in my writing and transcription, I don’t beat myself up anymore about not achieving the unattainable standard I set for myself when I first began working.  Providing realtime for clients has been a scary step for me, but also one of the biggest helps.  I’m forced to admit that I don’t write everything perfectly, but it also boosts my desire to get every word down accurately the first time around.  Ironically, throwing myself out there and showcasing my imperfection has skyrocketed my confidence and made me a better writer in the long run.

JCR | What is your next goal?  What is a long-term goal?

CA | My current goal is to obtain my RPR.  I completed the written test and first two legs while in school and have been working at that last Q & A leg ever since.  I really struggle some days when I think about tackling that last leg, but my mentors and fellow reporters have been hugely encouraging and supportive.  I know I belong in this profession; once I get my RPR, everyone else will know it, too.  In the long term, I want to replace those letters with the RMR certification, and eventually become a Registered  Diplomate Reporter.

JCR | Who is your mentor?

CA | I have been blessed with a number of incredible mentors, but the most influential have been Jan Ballman, Mary Mitchell, and Merilee Johnson.  Jan was my mentor in school and really got me thinking about the reporter I wanted to be once I graduated.  Mary walked me through my first years as a brand-new reporter and showed me how a true professional tackled the difficulties of reporting life (while still looking cool as a cucumber … I’m still working on that part).  Finally, Merilee has been the catalyst for my success in providing realtime.  Without her encouragement and selfless investment in my training, I wouldn’t be where I’m at today in the profession.  These women have inspired me with their innovation, excellence, and determination, and I couldn’t be more grateful for them.

JCR | Do you have any advice for reporting students?

CA | Be kind to yourself and keep at it.  I remember sitting in school and taking test after test, hopeful that maybe this time I’d write well enough to move on.  It was the easiest thing to start an internal dialogue in my head about how I should have had a better brief for that four-stroker, or how everyone else in the class seemed to be doing just fine while my shoulders slumped in defeat.  Court reporting school is tough!  In the end, though, it really comes down to staying positive, outwardly and inwardly, and sitting down day after day in front of your steno machine and choosing to fight for every word.  It really is a battle some days, but the outcome is worth it.

JCR | What do you like to do when you’re not reporting?

CA | I have been a student in Kung Fu San Soo, a self-defense martial art, for over a decade, and there’s nothing like getting on the mat to shake (or punch) out the stress of the day.  I also volunteer with my church’s youth group and enjoy doing everything from having honest life discussions with the teens to attending the high school sporting events, concerts, and theater performances they’re involved in.  When I’m not doing either of those things, I enjoy diving into a good Bible study or learning how to play new board games with my boyfriend, Matt.

The Importance of belonging to state and national court reporting associations

Leah Hamre

By Leah Hamre

We’ve all heard it before, “Team work is dream work.” How about, “None of us is as smart as all of us,” a quote from Ken Blanchard? Or, as Helen Keller stated, “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much”?

Being a part of an organization opens up doors that you may not have known existed and exposes you to opportunities, ideas, and people that challenge you and make you a better person.  I’m attending Anoka Technical College in Minnesota, and I have quickly learned how important it is that we take care of each other and our profession.

Court reporting is not as prominent as nursing or information technology but it’s just as honorable and important. The best way to educate and inform others, as well as learn and grow as a professional, is by joining an organization like the National Court Reporter Association (NCRA).

NCRA is the pinnacle of court reporter associations as they set the standards for court reporters and captioners. This popular organization really has something for everyone. Throughout the year, you can stay involved through awards and contests, continuing education, and incredible networking opportunities.

NCRA started with a small group of passionate shorthand reporters more than 100 years ago. The first convention was in 1899 in Chicago, Ill., with an attendance of 156. Last year’s convention, held in New Orleans, La., hosted 1,072 of the best court reporters in the nation! The NCRA Convention & Expo offers training sessions on software, updates on the latest and greatest technology, speakers, tips and tricks for efficient writing, and games, all while offering credit toward continuing education. Registration is now available for the 2019 convention being held Aug. 15-18 in Denver, Colo.

On the other hand, not joining an organization gives you a lot less credibility when you have an opinion about our industry. I think Dale Carnegie said it best: “Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain- and most fools do.” Have you ever noticed that the people who are always complaining aren’t doing anything to fix the problem?

If you’re unwilling to succumb to complacency and want to be the best person and reporter you can be, NCRA is the place to be. And don’t stop there, join as many organizations as possible. You can simply take advantage of the visibility and career opportunities or dive in and actively participate by becoming a mentor or joining a committee.

Whether you’re in school and wondering where you’ll land your dream job, looking for a change, or just want to help others, I urge you to invest in your future and mine, through NCRA membership.

Leah Hamre is a student at Anoka Technical College in Anoka, Minn.

Jim Woitalla’s legacy continues with student scholarships

By Jennifer Sati

As we all cherish our memories of Jim Woitalla and relish every single moment we spent with him, his legacy continues through his scholarships for judicial reporting students at Anoka Technical College in Anoka, Minn.

Callie Sajdera, Anoka Tech student, and Peter Gravett, Anoka Tech Foundation director

Three $1,000 scholarships were awarded this past summer semester to students. All three of the recipients had Jim as their technology instructor, which made the award all the more special. The recipients were Jennifer Brama, who has since graduated; Callie Sajdera, a 200 wpm student; and Jamie Ward, a 180 wpm student.

The scholarships were presented on Oct. 5 at the Anoka Technical College fall scholarship dinner and ceremony. It was a privilege and blessing to have Jim’s mother and two of his sisters attend the scholarship ceremony and be a part of awarding the very first Woitalla scholarships. Callie Sajdera, the student speaker at the foundation ceremony, shared heartfelt stories of Jim as her instructor.

The judicial reporting program would like to thank everyone who has generously donated toward Jim Woitalla’s scholarship fund. Please know that the students are very appreciative of the thoughtfulness of others and that the money has made a difference in their education. We at Anoka Tech will keep Jim’s passion for this amazing profession thriving by continuing to graduate students who share his same passion and enthusiasm for technology and excellence.

Court reporting students Callie Sajdera (far left) and Jamie Ward (far right) pose with members of Jim Woitalla’s family

Since the inception of the scholarship fund, a total of $8,500 has been donated. We are hopeful we can keep Jim’s scholarship fund active with continued donations and use the funds to award two $1,000 scholarships annually. The family discerningly suggested that more funds be given out this first year or two so that students who learned from Jim could receive the most benefit.

Jim was loved and respected by countless reporters and captioners around the country, and it is a great privilege to be able to continue to share his legacy with students, our future! Learn more about how to get involved with the Anoka Tech Foundation and the “Judicial Reporting Program/Woitalla Scholarship Fund.”

Jennifer Sati, RMR, CRR, CRC, CRI, is a captioner and an instructor at Anoka Tech. She is also on NCRA’s Board of Directors. She can be reached at jsati@anokatech.edu.








What are you planning to do to mark National Court Reporting & Captioning Week?

In less than two weeks, 2014 National Court Reporting & Captioning Week will kick off, with court reporters, captioners, firms, state associations, and court reporting schools hosting an array of activities to showcase the profession and to raise public awareness of the growing number of career opportunities the field has to offer.

Among them is Anoka Technical College in Anoka, Minn., where the court reporting school will host an on-campus “Court Reporting & Captioning Spring Fling,” on Feb. 19. The school is inviting students, reporters, judges, legislators, representatives from the Deaf and hard-of-hearing communities, and members of the general public to attend the event which will feature realtime and captioning demonstrations, opportunities for students to mingle with working reporters, and food and drinks.  Contact Jennifer Sati at JSati@atech.edu.

Ill ProcStenograph, based in Elmhurst, Ill., and a major product and service provider to the court reporting and caption profession, has received an official proclamation from Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, recognizing Feb. 16 – 22 as the official 2014 National Court Reporting & Captioning Week. Contact Dan Peterson, Director of Marketing and Inside Sales for Stenograph at DPetersen@stenograph.com.

The Oregon Court Reporters Association is urging its members to spread the word to clients, friends, and associates about 2014 Court Reporting & Captioning Week, as well as working on partnering with the Oregon State Bar to host a Veterans History Project to market the event. The State Bar will also run an ad in the February edition of their magazine using NCRA’s promotional logo to recognize the week. In addition, Carol Studemund, chair of OCRA’s Legislative Committee, has arranged for NCRA’s proclamation about Court Reporting & Captioning Week to be read at the Oregon Legislature and at the city councils of Portland, Eugene, and Beaverton. Contact Robin Nodland at rnodland@LNScourtreporting.com.

The Pennsylvania Court Reporters Association is planning to encourage its extensive member base to get involved with National Court Reporting & Captioning Week by engaging in a grassroots effort to promote the profession and educate local communities about the value stenographic skills bring to today’s marketplace.  PCRA is working very closely with the three nationally-accredited court reporting programs that are located in Pennsylvania to recruit and retain students and bring awareness of the profession to the public. Contact Donna Betza, PCRA President dbetza@betzaandassociates.com.

To find out how you can celebrate 2014 National Court Reporting & Captioning Week or to find the latest in resources including press release templates, media pitches, power points, and more, please visit NCRA’s Court Reporting & Captioning Week resources page or contact the NCRA communications team at PR@ncra.org.