Why I teach

This year I have the privilege of being the Board of Di­rectors liaison to the Teachers Community of Inter­est. What a great group of enthused, engaged profes­sionals. They are passionate about the court reporting profession and dedicated to educating a new genera­tion of court, CART, and captioning reporters.

Many of us can probably identify a teacher that got us through the rigorous travails of mastering that frustrating little stenographic machine and all the knowledge we needed to be proficient in our chosen profession. For me, it was Cathy Logan at Central Pennsylvania Business School. She was the perfect com­bination of drill sergeant and patient nurturer. Without her teaching abilities, I would still be struggling with my 180s!

We asked the members of the Teachers Community of Interest to write a few paragraphs about “Why I teach.” Their responses are heartfelt and enlightening. Maybe it will inspire you to teach!

Tiva Wood
Board liaison to the Teacher Community of Interest



By Janine Ferren

I teach simply because I love helping a stu­dent find success. Whether I am standing in a traditional classroom and being the “sage on the stage” or working in an online course and being the “guide on the side,” there is nothing more rewarding than be­ing there when a student achieves a goal. I enjoy sharing the various opportunities that exist for a career in court reporting to the “maybe I want to be a court reporter” student. In fact, sometimes I think I can barely control my enthusiasm, as I truly believe this is a career that can change a person’s life in a multitude of ways.

Introducing the steno machine and working through those first lessons as stu­dents find they can write sentences within the first week is just plain fun. Reviewing transcripts, helping students hone in on areas of writing that need more atten­tion, directing students to exercises that reinforce concepts, and then watching as students recognize improvement in their writing makes my work worthwhile. Hav­ing the pleasure of telling students when they passed tests – especially that last test that means their schoolwork is officially at an end – is rewarding beyond words. Shar­ing a court reporting student’s journey is a wonderful ride to take.

Being a teacher is not always easy, but neither is becoming a court reporter. I re­late to the students, as I was once in their shoes, banging away on a machine, try­ing to get my fingers to move where they should as fast as they could. I finished a court reporting program, and my memo­ries of being a student are strong. I remem­ber what it felt like to practice for hours on end, to struggle, and then to finally attain my speed and accuracy. I want my students to find that same success and more.

I teach because I appreciate the effort it takes to be a court reporter, because I had good teachers who supported me and I want to continue to pay that forward, and selfishly because I want to be a part of some court reporter’s successful attain­ment of skills. I love to see my former stu­dents as professional court reporters!


By Deborah Jong

I’ve had a lot of teachers in my life. When you consider I’ve been through elementary school, music lessons, high school, college, graduate school, court reporting school, and several jobs, I’ve come across many different teachers, instructors, coaches, and mentors. Most of them I can’t even re­member. But there were a few special ones whose métier was to spark inspiration in their students and affect their lives in posi­tive ways. Those are the ones who really made an impression on me. They didn’t just teach me a subject or a skill; they helped me develop into the person I am.

Being a court reporting instructor doesn’t mean that I am just training stu­dents to become court reporters. As I coach them to develop their steno skills, I hope I am mentoring them to develop some life skills as well. I encourage them to care about the quality of their work, ap­preciate the responsibility of it, and strive to be better at what they do. This can help them in many areas of their lives.

The teachers who I remember most are the ones that contributed to the devel­opment of my character. What they taught me became a part of who I am today. Their teachings made a lasting impression on me. As I work with my students, I want to give them what I appreciated most from my teachers. I, too, want to make lasting impressions on them. That is why I teach.


By Janet Noel

I have been involved in court reporting for 34 years – as a freelancer, official, teacher, and administrator – and I think someone who devotes that much time to the profes­sion has to love it. And I do! The profession has been good to me when I was single, as a wife and mother, and now that my children have left the nest (well, almost!). Finishing school and becoming certified is probably the hardest thing I have accomplished.

As a teacher, I want to share my thoughts, ideas, and observations with stu­dents. I want them to know it is a wonder­ful profession, one that has many avenues. I want them to know that their hard work will pay off. I teach because I want to mo­tivate, encourage, support, and guide stu­dents in fulfilling their dream. I teach be­cause I want them to love court reporting as much as I do.


By Bonni Shuttleworth

Teaching is one of the most exciting ca­reers for anyone to embark upon. For me, there is nothing more exciting and rewarding than to take a student who, in the early days, could not even load paper into a steno machine and, a few years later, see that student become a working profes­sional.

I live in the Chicago area and I see many of my former students walking through the downtown streets of Chi­cago, dragging their “rolly” behind them, dressed professionally on the way to a job. My students are my “punkins” no matter her or his age. I see my job as motivating students as well as teaching them the finer points of court reporting: how to produce a transcript, how to set up realtime, how to deal with the varied situations that might happen in a hearing. My job is also to encourage those students who become frustrated with lack of speed progression. Many students are nontraditional, and I help them deal with life situations that may impede their progress and with family members who constantly say, “You’re not finished yet?” My answer to that is to dic­tate an 80 wpm literary piece and tell them to write it in French at 95 percent accuracy. That’s what we do: teach students to hear the English and translate it into this for­eign language we call “theory.” Teaching students how to manage their time and use it efficiently is a large part of what a teacher does. In a nutshell, I am filled with pride when I see a former successful student, knowing I had a small part in her or his success.


By Carol Crawford

Teaching is an interesting occupation. It is the process of introducing people to un­known subject matter. Different teachers use different methods, but I like to teach in a way that is engaging, inviting, exciting, and invigorating. In my classroom, I try to encourage constant activity within the learning environment. This tends to bring the student into an arena that will capture their attention and cause them to want to learn more.

This is why I teach: I love presenting new information to my students and see­ing their minds open up and engage in the subject being taught. I also love to see the students glean information from each oth­er. When this takes place, it seems that they have taken the information that I shared with them and made it a part of their own knowledge. They begin to add what they know to what they have learned, and I can see them take ownership of that knowledge and grow. This is such a satisfying feeling.

My first desire to become a teacher was when I was in the seventh grade. I had some great teachers in my life. They inspired me so much. I knew then that I wanted to be­come a person who would help to inspire others as well. Although I no longer teach every day, I never turn down a chance to teach when called upon to do so. I will al­ways be a teacher.


By Len Sperling

It all starts with contributing to student success. Through developing relationships, helping students understand concepts, and coaching them to become the best they can be is an exhilarating experience. I get my energy during the day by being with the students in the classroom. Teaching orien­tates me to continuous self-learning and development. If I ask students to give their best, I must also give mine.

Teaching is fun. I laugh everyday with my students. The students keep me young and current with the latest trends and ide­as. Sometimes I feel I am learning as much from them as they are from me. Teaching allows me to be creative and innovative. When the door closes to the classroom, I am given a tremendous amount of auton­omy and responsibility. It’s my opportu­nity to make a difference.


By Sidney Weldele-Wallace, CRI, CPE
2 teach is
+ 2 touch a life
4 ever

The saying above was given to me years ago by one of my students during my first year of teaching. I appreciated the thoughtful gesture and felt pride that I had impacted the life of that particular student in a posi­tive way. In the 22 years since, I have been struck repeatedly by the fact that, as edu­cators, we not only directly touch the lives of our students, but like the endless ripples caused by a stone tossed into the depths of water, we teachers in some way touch the future and impact the lives of countless others through the handiwork of our stu­dents. Our former students, now outstand­ing professionals in their fields, whether working in the judicial arena or in CART/captioning, improve and empower the lives of others by their work every single day. That point was driven home to me on a powerful and emotional level last spring.

My youngest daughter, who is now 19, was born with profound hearing loss. She has worn hearing aids her entire life and received a cochlear implant on her right side last year. She also graduated from a program of study at our community col­lege and participated in the commence­ment ceremony last June. During the even­ing’s ceremony, as a mother, I was beaming with pride for my daughter for overcom­ing so many obstacles and never giving up on achieving her goal of graduation. As a faculty member, I also took tremendous pride in the fact that the realtime CART provider providing services for my daugh­ter was one of my former students. I felt a tremendous sense of satisfaction and fulfillment, knowing I played some small part in setting the career direction of my student years before, never realizing at the time that it would have such a reciprocal and personal effect by benefitting my own daughter. Everything had come full circle!

I teach because I know firsthand that we do make a difference!


By Karen D. Sole, RPR, CRI, CPE

To be completely honest, I originally start­ed teaching to supplement my reporting income, but it wasn’t long before I was hooked. So for me, teaching started out as a job, then evolved into a career, and it is now my vocation.

Court reporting is such a unique and challenging program. As a court reporting student, you have to learn to juggle school with outside responsibilities, learn time management skills, and challenge yourself to go beyond your perceived limitations. As a court reporting instructor, you have to be a teacher and a coach, a cheerleader and a therapist.

I love the court reporting field, and I really enjoyed my own court report­ing education and training. Once I began teaching, I strived to emulate the teachers I had in school who helped me succeed, who encouraged me, who made me believe in myself, who challenged me to always reach farther, and who instilled in me a life-long love of learning.

The sense of satisfaction and gratifica­tion I gain in helping students to not only reach their goals but to challenge them­selves to attain goals beyond their expecta­tions and reach their fullest potential is a remarkably rewarding and extremely ful­filling feeling.

In the spotlight: Dorothy Huffman

29-30-31_2Dorothy Huffman of Indianapolis, Ind., recently retired after nearly 70 years of active court report­ing. I had the chance to sit and talk with her about her career and her life away from the stenotype machine. When I grow up, I want to be Dorothy!


What made you decide to become a court reporter?

I wanted to be a concert pianist, but I was going to school in my hometown to be a teacher. I didn’t want to be a teacher. At the time, I had already taken a year of Gregg shorthand, which I didn’t like. I was good at it in the beginning, but then I realized that if I do too well, they’ll make me take another year, so I decided I wouldn’t try as hard. I took a year off from school to earn some money so that I could afford to go to school to study piano, and I needed to get a job. I was given an aptitude test that I ini­tially thought was all hype. On a steno key­board, we had to move our fingers across the top of the machine, then back across the bottom, and we had to write “you are” as fast as we could. Being a pianist, I was able to do well on this test. Even though I didn’t like Gregg shorthand, I thought this stenotype looked much more interesting, so I signed up.

Where did you attend school?

I attended Skadron Court Reporting School in Fort Wayne, Ind. The head teach­er believed that you should never have to learn things twice, so he taught us brief forms from the very beginning. As far as vowels, most teachers said, “Context will tell,” but my teacher gave us many exam­ples where context doesn’t tell, so he taught us long vowels from the beginning. One example where context won’t tell that I re­call is “I bet you” and “I beat you.”

I still have the steno machine that I learned on. It was a secretarial model that took smaller pads of papers. Mine was a demo, so it had the letters on the keys.

Tell us about the jobs you’ve held.

During World War II, I got a job on the lo­cal base as a stenographer. At that point, I was able to write well enough on the steno machine to do that kind of work. I worked for the aircraft engineering department where I would transcribe highly secret tel­ephone conversations that related to how to repair the military airplanes.

After the war, I went to work for the Pennsylvania Railroad as a court reporter. I worked at the superintendent’s office in Fort Wayne. I reported the trials that dealt with infractions of conductors and engi­neers. It was wonderful training because I had to transcribe every single thing I wrote down.

Then I got married in 1942, and my husband and I moved to Indianapolis af­terward so that he could take a job as a horn player with the Indianapolis Sym­phony Orchestra.

29-30-31_3Did you continue working as a court reporter when you moved to Indian­apolis?

I wanted to take some time off from work because we had two small chil­dren. My husband and I bought a dou­ble home when we moved here (a semi-attached home). The day we moved in, I didn’t yet have a telephone, so I went to the home on the other side of the double to borrow their phone. I noticed pads of stenotype paper that people were using to make notes next to the telephone. My new neighbor was also a court reporter!

After the symphony season ended, I decided to take a night job to earn some extra money, so I started teaching steno at the Consolidated Business College. I taught my students as my teacher had taught me and gave them briefs from the start. One of my students became a court reporter and replaced me years later when I left circuit court.

You eventually went into the courts. Tell us about that.

I took a job in criminal court for two years, and then for 16 years, I was in superior and then circuit court with Judge Niblack. The court reporter’s job was a political appointment back then. I hadn’t yet voted, so there was no re­cord of whether I was a Democrat or Republican. Although I had to join the party in office, vote for that party, and be approved for the job by the party, Judge Niblack wanted somebody who could actually do the court reporting job and not just a political appointment. I always admired him for that.

After 16 years with Judge Niblack, I became a freelancer with Powell and Oakes in Indianapolis and eventually became independent and remained that way until earlier this year.

Would you tell us about switching to a CAT system?

I was the first person in Indiana who went on the computer. I still have one of the disks – it was 15 inches in diameter, a cou­ple inches thick, and it held just 100 pages. The computer itself was the size of a small refrigerator. I remember the first transcript I turned out with this wonderful computer. It was just 29 pages, and it took a very long time to get it right. One thing I remember is that the word “aggravation” was said several times in the tran­script, and each time it trans­lated as “ago gray vacation.”

How about the threats to steno reporting?

When tape recorders were in­troduced, we did have some worries. They tried to get Judge Niblack to put in tape recorders because they were supposed to be so much better, but he refused. He told them, “I’ll put my reporter up against your recorder any day.” Judge Niblack did more for court reporters locally than any­one else. In fact, he was the one who was instrumental in getting our pay raised to $200 a month.

What changes have you seen over the years?

When I became a reporter, it was a male profession. Because of World War II, there weren’t male reporters available, and so women started becoming reporters. There was also smoking everywhere – not just in depositions, but also in courtrooms.

Back before air conditioning, windows were left open all the time, and sometimes the windows at the top were left open over­night. The rain would come in, and things deteriorated. I came into my office one morning and the ceiling had fallen down on my couch. I’m glad it didn’t happen when I was sitting on it.

Do you have any funny stories from court?

This was an interesting way to get a recess: During trial once, a big rat fell down right next to me. A live rat. He was huge. The ceiling was 30 feet up. The fall didn’t kill him, but it did knock him senseless. I was happy that the judge took a recess after that happened.

29-30-31_4I see you have a couple of harpsichords in your living room. Is this one of your hobbies?

I have a harpsichord concert coming up in a couple of weeks. I have also played the organ, the piano, and the cello.

Any other hobbies?

I am leaving soon for a weeklong horse­back riding and camping trip in the Cana­dian Rockies. I will be riding with the Trail Riders, which is a group that has been in existence for 90 years. It started the same year I was born.

It sounds like you like to travel. Any other exciting travels you’d like to share with us?

Back when I was just 70 years old, I re­signed as organist from my church. They gave me a gift, and instead of putting it into my retirement account, I decided to use it to travel. I flew to Norway and went cross-country skiing for two weeks.

Did you say you were 70 years old when you did that?

Yes. Then later, after I had hip surgery, the doctors wanted me to rehab on a station­ary bike. I did that for a little while, but I didn’t want to sit at home and ride a bike, so instead I flew to Holland and rode a bike there for three weeks.

Tell me about your family.

I have two daughters, and they are both musicians. One lives in South Bend, and the other lives in Colorado. I have four grandchildren. They don’t live nearby, so I love to travel to see them. In fact, after the horseback riding trip next month, I will be driving to Portland, Ore., to see my grand­son. I love to drive.

How long have you been a member of the Indiana Shorthand Reporters Association?

Ever since I got my first job with the courts. Way back then, some of us wanted to get certification, but we didn’t get much sup­port from other reporters because most of them were political appointees who could never have passed a test of any kind.

Can you believe we’re still dealing with that issue, trying to get mandatory certification in Indiana?

You’re going to make it someday.

We are all im­pressed by you, Dorothy, to have reported for so many years, all the way up to the age of 90.

I always told myself that I was going to report as long as my ears and my fingers and my brain still work. I reported my last job in Janu­ary, and I thought to myself: “You’d better stop while you’ve got a good reputation and be­fore you absolutely have to.”

29-30-31The photo of you from the 1960s, sitting at a typewriter with a pipe in your mouth, is so intriguing. Can you share the background story?

That was back when I worked for Judge Niblack. He had been a news­paper reporter, and he got more publicity than any­one else because he knew when to bring in the media. He might call up the paper during an interesting trial and say, “Come in at 10. We’ll have a witness that you may want to hear.”

The Surgeon General had just come out with the report that smoking cigarettes was bad for you, but pipes weren’t quite as bad for you, so I smoked a pipe for a while. It was great to be able to smoke my pipe at the typewriter and not worry about ashes falling onto the paper. Judge Niblack knew that it was a good story, so he called in the media. I’m not particularly proud that I smoked a pipe back then, but that picture went all over the United States.

(Dorothy played the harpsichord at the end of the interview. I was a concert pianist in college, and I will share with you that I was amazed at her skill. The instrument seemed to spring to life under her fingers, almost as if electricity were coursing through it. Truly amazing.)


Janine Ferren, RPR, CRR, is a freelance reporter in Indianapolis, Ind., and is the treasurer of the Indiana Shorthand Reporters Association. She can be reached at janine@ferrenfamily.com.