The Queen’s Odyssey

Yearbook adviser wins award for inspiring teachers


Anika Mereddy

Mary Kay Downes speaks with senior and editor-in-chief Nia Hoq. Downes has inspired countless students and fellow journalism teachers.

Anika Mereddy, business manager

The award-winning Odyssey yearbook program has long been advised by a legend in the scholastic journalism field, Mary Kay Downes, who has recently been honored for her tireless support of journalism teachers.

Downes, also the English department chair, was recently named the recipient of the Linda S. Puntney Teacher Inspiration Award from the Journalism Education Association and will be recognized at the National Scholastic Press Association convention in April.

During Downes’ 32 years of experience as a journalism adviser, she has actively participated in press associations, workshops and conventions, dedicating her time and efforts to supporting journalism educators and advisers around the country.

The award acknowledges the impact Downes has had inspiring others to pursue a career in journalism and making a difference in the teaching community.

For many, Downes’ advice and passion inspires them to work harder in yearbook and other activities.

“Personally, I was a more reserved person sophomore year, and she told me that everyone gets one year to be quiet, but after that you have to come out of your shell and take responsibility,” senior and yearbook editor-in-chief Sahaana Sethu said. “I took that advice and that’s how I became editor-in-chief.”

Under Downes’ leadership over the past three decades, Odyssey has been recognized as one of the best yearbooks in the nation for design, photography and storytelling.

The yearbook class, Photojournalism 1-4, provides opportunities to cover school events, meet new people and contribute to a record that will be treasured by the student body for years to come.

Students obtain valuable management skills because the class is run by the student editors.

“They learn life skills by taking yearbook that they never would have received in any other place,” Downes said.

In addition to learning how to make important decisions and developing creative skills, students become proficient in how to take charge and command a group.

“They often come shy and unwilling to challenge themselves, not even wanting to go interview,” Downes said. “Then, by the time they are seniors, when you’re more involved in producing, you can’t be shy anymore.”

With the resources to master multiple skills, such as design, writing and interviewing, yearbook is a creative option for those looking for a productive yet engaging class.

“I would encourage [students] to take yearbook because of the fact that they get a result, a tangible product that will last for all time,” Downes said.

Downes’ influence, along with the dedication of her students, can be seen in the annual yearbook, distributed at the end of the year.

“Even though it’s a student-run class, Mrs. Downes still has a huge impact on all of us,” junior Karina Daniel said. “Because of the class and her, we all want to make the best yearbook possible.”