Inclusivity is an important topic these days and Gwynn Park teacher LaShunda Nugent is using that theme to improve the school’s yearbook.
In part by using the TreeRing tool, the Waldorf resident has been able to further showcase all the school’s 1,000 students, including their uniqueness and backgrounds.
“The purpose of a yearbook is to document the year and everything that went on and what tends to happen is the focus is on seniors because it’s their last year,” said Nugent, who has been in education for 20 years, teaching for six years and is in her third year at Gwynn Park. “That means that everything going on in the school needs to be documented, and not just senior athletes or the seniors that take part in this club or that club, so it’s a disservice to the other 800 [or so] kids that are at the school.”
Other schools in Prince George’s County using TreeRing include Classical Conversations, National Christian Academy, Benjamin Tasker Middle School, Chesapeake Public Charter School, Maya Angelou French Immersion and Chesapeake Math and IT South Public Charter. Dynard Elementary School in St. Mary’s County, Malcolm Elementary School in Charles County and Calvert County’s Mount Harmony Elementary are also using it.
At Gwynn Park, the senior class portraits stay the same as do the photos of the underclassmen, but Nugent highlights every club and team at the school.
“The book is not just for [senior] students, or the biggest clubs or popular clubs, but everyone because everyone has a value and a memory they want to keep from that year,” she said. “It’s really about being able to highlight everyone so anyone can pick up the book and find themselves or that documents their experience in it.
As a result, all athletic teams get equal coverage, whether its football and basketball or swimming and wrestling and does the same for each of the school’s clubs and activities.
Nugent also makes sure she has a mix of underclassmen as well as seniors on her staff of 24 so that after graduation she still has a strong staff.
Nugent said one of the things she likes best about Tree Ring is that it puts a free version of the yearbook on its website which she said “is a great option because we are slowly moving away from something they want to look at in their hands. [Students are] scrolling their phones and taking screenshots, even with a copy of the book.”
Trainer worried that an online version of a yearbook would hurt physical sales.
But Nugent said as a result of being online, students can order their yearbook even decades down the line.
She also added that the physical copies of the yearbooks — the school typically prints 152-page books — are usually much cheaper. Instead of yearbooks costing up to $100, last year’s was sold at a cost of $60.
Huntingtown’s 300-page book sells for about $100.
Nugent, who first used TreeRing while teaching at Seaside High School in California, said the technology allows for late inclusions into the yearbook, even into April.
But Amy Trainer, who is the advisor of Huntingtown High School’s nationally-recognized yearbook, said she has “no interest” in switching from using Jostens.
“I really like using them, especially the support I get [from the corporate liaisons],” said Trainer, who has a staff of 17, most of whom are seniors.
Trainer said her goal is also inclusivity and said the goal is to have each student in the book at least three times, whether in a photo or by a quote or name.
“We reach that goal about 70% of the time,” she said.
And TreeRing is also doing its part to assist the community after it recently announced it will match $37,500 in donations to Trees for the Future as part of its matching gift campaign for Giving Tuesday on Nov. 30. The $75,000 match will go to Trees for the Future to help further its mission to end hunger and poverty by training farmers to regenerate their land.
“Through our one book printed, one tree planted model with Trees for the Future,” TreeRing CEO and co-founder Kevin Zerber said in a news release. “We can help lay a sustainable foundation for future generations while preserving students’ memories in a yearbook that they will keep for a lifetime.”
Nugent said that the end yearbook product is all about the students.
“It’s not so much taking away from seniors as much as it’s adding the other students,” she said. “It’s just about spreading the love.”