Dow Tate, who teaches journalism at Shawnee Mission East High School, will soon be honored by The Roy H. Park School of Communications at Ithaca College. He will be presented with the S’Park Media Mentor Award this October, which is given to educators who demonstrate a “commitment to igniting a passion for media among students.”
Tate was selected for the honor after a nationwide search.
Throughout Tate’s tenure at SM East, which began in 2002, the school newspaper, yearbook and news website, earned some of the nation’s highest honors in high school journalism. The long list of accolades includes the National Scholastic Press Association’s preeminent award, the Pacemaker, and Columbia Scholastic Press Association Crown Awards.
Tate also has mentored several students who have earned national recognition for their strength in journalism. Three of Tate’s students have been named National Journalist of the Year and two graduates who studied journalism with Tate have earned a Pulitzer Prize.
Tate credits students who have taken ownership and leadership of school publications for these successes. His teaching philosophy is rooted in allowing students to tackle controversial subjects as long as it is done professionally. Tate also believes in the importance of students making mistakes as part of their learning experience.
"The first few issues may have some typos, but as long as the content and quality keeps improving and the number of typos decreases, that is important,” Tate said.
He said he inspires his students through conversation and challenging them to think for themselves. That inspiration, combined with the focus and curiosity of his students, has strengthened the journalism program at the high school, he said.
Students in Tate’s classes are encouraged to dabble in a variety of mediums to expand their knowledge and abilities. Tate said he feels successful when he sees students become genuinely excited about a story or learn a new skill. Some of Tate’s students pursue careers unrelated to journalism, but they often share with him how design or writing skills they learned in his class supported their career success. After graduation, one student shared that writing skills learned in Tate’s class were being used in a job as an account manager. Another graduate shared how design skills helped secure an internship at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.
“It’s very rewarding seeing students be successful in many different ways,” Tate said.