To my mind the unique part of the program was the amount of
responsibility Woj gave us. As she often says, she censors the paper only for
libel and incitement to riot. I felt like the decisions I made were important
and that they affected other people, so I worked hard and thought about things
in a way I wasn't accustomed to doing. By that I mean I approached decisions
with attention to their long-term and difficult-to-anticipate consequences.
We, the editors, realized that our choices could potentially set precedents
for the years to follow.
It was just as important, though, that Woj allowed us to make
poor decisions. She made sure we had thought things through, and if we were
determined to walk the plank she didn't stop us. We learned to deal with the
effects of colossal blunders. Woj encouraged new ideas, and she never shook
her head (publicly) over the ones that didn't pan out.
Perhaps the best indication of the program's impact on me
is that I think of my current job as an attempt to relive my Campanile experience.
I still love that kind of informal work environment, coupled with long hours
and dedicated co-workers. I like worrying about the small stuff (page format,
editorial rules) and I like dealing with the big "the fate of the book
is in your hands" type things. Campanile undoubtedly gave me some confidence,
but I think the its work ethic and atmosphere have had the greatest effect on
me since I left."
The journalism program, beyond helping me learn how to quickly
pump out 600 densely packed words, taught me how to work with people and take
responsibility for editorial decisions. More specifically, the freedom and leadership
I was granted helped me learn how to respect everyone's opinions, control my
temper and put personal politics aside in favor of journalistic integrity. I
have become a more reasonable person to work with because of The Campanile experience.
Having more freedom means having more responsibility. The work we produced reflected
our decisions and collective efforts rather than decisions made completely by
a teacher. That is why we always took pride in The Campanile, and tried our
best, together, to make the best newspaper we could. It wasn't just a class
anymore -- it was a commitment.
To me, the most important/valuable aspects of the Campanile
program were the experience of working closely with a team of editors and also
the experience of basically complete autonomy/student control of the newspaper.
That is, the fact that we (the editors) essentially ran the class, from structuring
class time to making editorial decisions to running production week to giving
input on evaluation of other students, proved invaluable to me as an experience
in developing leadership skills and also in feeling like I was really helping
to CREATE the newspaper instead of just doing what a teacher told me to do or
what had been done before in previous years. Owning the experience of being
editor in chief is what made me care so deeply about Campanile and want to put
in endless hours of work to make it the best possible newspaper. As for the
teamwork aspect, I really enjoyed feeling like I was part of a team of editors
that had to work together and make collective editorial decisions and be responsible
for the paper. I think we learned over the course of the year to balance each
other out in terms of strengths and weaknesses, which means we also became more
keenly aware of what our own strengths and weaknesses were.
Woj, in shaping my Campanile experience... as an advisor,
you gave us the illusion of having total control over everything that happened
with the paper, an experience so rare at the high school level that it made
us all highly committed to the paper, but in retrospect you did a lot of organizational
work that made the program possible in the first place. And while you weren't
overly involved in the hour-to-hour production process, for real dilemmas you
always had a word of useful advice to guide us.
I think the essence of what is good about the program is that
the adviser is just that -- someone to advise the staff and to help with knowledge
they don't have yet. The adult in charge isn't making questionable ethical judgments
and in general running the program in accordance with their ideas and tastes
only -- the adult merely guides the students and gives them the tools to succeed.
This latitude is what is so attractive to the students and what makes them so
devoted to the program.
Before my time at the Campanile I never really had a passion
in school. My classes were OK and I new I enjoyed the social anything specific
that I loved to do. Writing for the Campanile, I discovered that I really enjoy
journalism. What really made my experience at the Campanile extraordinary was
the freedom we all had to shape the paper. Woj gave us an incredible foundation
with her beginning journalism class and she also helped guide us, but ultimately
decisions regarding the paper were left to us. I think this hands-off approach
more than anything was what made the paper great. The students who worked on
the Campanile knew that it was theirs and not filtered through a teacher or
Mrs. Wojcicki is undoubtedly the most innovative and thoughtful
teacher I have ever had, as well as the best educator I am likely to have in
the future. My feelings are not unique; every student who is lucky enough to
be taught by Mrs. Wojcicki loves her. We love her because she makes us love
learning, inspires us to work harder than we could ever imagine, truly loves
her students and teaching, and, lastly, because her creativity has led to immense
improvements in educational programs at Palo Alto High School.
Truth be told, Mrs. Wojcicki (her students have fondly nicknamed
her "Woj") is the reason that I still attend Palo Alto High School.
In the fall of my sophomore year, I was troubled by the lack of intellectual
stimulus in my classrooms, which were often cramped with uninterested students.
Consequently, I applied to numerous prep schools on the east coast and was accepted.
My ultimate decision to stay home reflected the change in my educational experience
at my high school due to my encounters with Mrs. Wojcicki. Her teaching style
and self-made journalism program motivated me to immerse myself more proactively
in my education. I knew that if I were to stay, I would have the opportunity
to work with Mrs. Wojcicki for two more years, and I could not pass up this
chance. The paper is now a forum for me to discuss ideas with my classmates
and to better understand my beliefs through these discussions.
Every third week, the fifty juniors and seniors on the staff
of our award-winning periodical, The Campanile, stay after school until 9 or
10 p.m. on some nights to finish producing the newspaper. Mrs. Wojcicki is always
there, whether encouraging us to work harder or giving us her opinion on a journalistic
However, Mrs. Wojcicki's most telling attribute may not be
her presence; rather, it may be her ability to change from director to spectator.
Mrs. Wojcicki taught us everything we know about journalism, from graphical
design to formal writing. By trusting us to make our own decisions about the
future of the paper and by giving us the independence most teachers fear (the
editors lead class every day and correct all the articles ourselves), she is
in fact trusting her own teaching abilities. I am primarily indebted to Mrs.
Wojcicki for teaching me everything I know about journalism and secondly for
giving me the confidence to effectively use the journalistic talents that she
has taught me.
Not only has Mrs. Wojcicki changed my life, but also she has
improved hundreds of student's lives throughout her successful career
at Palo Alto High School. For example, my sister, a former Editor-in-Chief of
The Campanile under Mrs. Wojcicki's advising and a graduate of the Harvard class
of 2000, still returns to her old high school to converse with and receive advice
from Mrs. Wojcicki, as do countless other former students.
In addition, Mrs. Wojcicki's creativity has greatly enhanced
the journalism programs at Palo Alto High School. Since her arrival on our campus
years ago, Mrs. Wojcicki has started an award-winning student magazine, has
dramatically improved the breadth of focus and the writing quality in our newspaper,
and has at least tripled the size of the journalism programs at Palo Alto High.
Currently, her innovativeness has found her working to publish a student newspaper
online. She will undoubtedly use the grant money to effectively improve the
school and, consequently, her students' education.
I never want to leave my journalism class at the end of the
day. For this reason, my fellow editors and I often stay a few hours after school
with Mrs. Wojcicki to discuss the journalism class, editorials, and other articles.
I cannot imagine my life without the paper and Mrs. Wojcicki, as is true with
many of my peers. I am forever grateful for that inkling I had sophomore year
that told me I would be missing out if I decided to attend school on the east
I have been a student of Esther Wojcicki's for going
on three years now, and I would have to say that she is the most down-to-earth
teacher I have ever had. Wojcicki knows what she's teaching and she gets
it across to the students. I have gone to her for advise fairly often and she
has always had the answers to my questions, especially if my questions regard
an article, the newspaper or the journalism field in general. With her beginning
journalism program, I was introduced to writing for a newspaper and it has been
my passion ever since. Wojcicki kept the class motivated and kept it moving
so that we now produce a paper that has received numerous awards as well as
the All-American status. But Wojcicki was the uniting factor among all of us
and she kept the paper going no matter what.
Everything in Wojcicki's class revolves around journalism.
When a major event comes up, Wojcicki always thinks about keeping the public
informed and makes sure that the important issues are covered. Because of Wojcicki,
our newspaper has been graced with new computers and technology. Without Wojcicki,
we would not have a class that produces such a professional paper and our school
would not be at all as informed about local issues as it is.
Without Wojcicki, our school would not have a magazine or
a broadcast journalism class. She worked with students and the school to create
these classes from only grants and self-produced money. Wojcicki cares about
the journalism department and will do anything to make it better and keep it
Currently, Wojcicki is helping students and the school create
a web journalism class that will hopefully be available for next fall. This
year is the testing phase when Wojcicki will raise money to get the program
started and plan out the way it will be run. With addition of this class, there
will be four ways for students, staff and the community to hear about the happenings
at and around our school. It also gives students four different choices when
it comes to applying the techniques learned in beginning journalism.
With so many journalism programs started practically single-handedly
by Wojcicki, anyone can tell that she will continue to give so much to our school
and our community.
I am a current Editor-in-Chief of The Campanile and have worked
closely with Mrs. Wojcicki – or Woj, as we call her – since I joined
the staff last year. I have learned a lot from Woj in the time that I have been
under her guidance. She knows exactly what we should publish, how the community
will react to our stories, and how to deal with other members on the staff.
Not only has she taught us a lot about journalism, but she has also taught us
a great deal about leadership.
I think the best part of having Woj as an advisor is that
she gives us just the right amount of freedom. She allows us to run the paper
almost entirely on our own, but gives us her input when she knows we need it.
This creates a learning environment in which we are able to learn from our mistakes,
but are prevented from making drastic errors. This is much more effective than
if someone were to tell us ahead of time exactly what we should or should not
do. Also, it is much more fun for us because we do not have an advisor that
is too overbearing and authoritative.
This system works only because Woj designed it in such a way
that it was sure to be successful. We learned how to run the paper by observing
the previous editors, they learned from their predecessors, and so on. Woj plays
an active role in preventing each year's editors from making mistakes
that previous editors have made. Since we learned by watching our predecessors,
we indirectly learned from Woj, as well.
Under Woj, The Campanile has, year after year, been able to
maintain its high level of quality as a result of her unique approach to running
the paper. Giving us the freedom we need to grow and learn has been instrumental
in making our journalism program as successful and enriching as it is today.