When Jean Scoon, editor of Saint John’s Magazine, contacted me about a writing a feature, she knew she wanted to highlight the work of five alumni educators who’d risen to the top of their fields. But she hadn’t settled on the best way to showcase their work.
She wasn’t interested in a series of traditional narrative profiles that laid out the sources’ accomplishments like a highlight reel; the profiles seemed to merit a more creative approach. Yet it was hard to know what angle to take without learning more about each teacher. I promised to dig into the reporting and come up with a few different ideas.
I conducted several wide-ranging interviews with the teachers to learn more about them. What came through in those interviews was their passion for some of the most important issues swirling in education today, from standardized testing to technology in the classroom. Their stories were interesting not only because the teachers had strong opinions and understood the most common arguments on each side of the issue, but because their thoughts were anchored by their personal experiences in the classroom.
Jean and I talked again after my initial interviews, and we decided it would work best to frame each profile as a Q&A.
I’d pose a single question to each teacher (“Does standardized testing shortchange students?” “Is it time to do away with age-based grade levels?”) and include their responses, edited for clarity. The photo that accompanied each profile included 50-word captions that highlighted their professional accomplishments. Check out the final result here.
The feature succeeded because of smart collaboration from start to finish. “I really valued your thoughtfulness about how to approach it,” Scoon says of the process. “You didn’t just write it—you provided invaluable help in honing the concept.”
The story went on to win a bronze award for profile writing from the Minnesota Magazine & Publishing Association.
Contact me at erin [at] erinpeterson.com to discuss taking your story ideas to the next level.