Valley yearbook adviser takes home national award

HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) — Harrisonburg High School celebrated after its yearbook adviser received a national award.

Mary Strickler has been the yearbook adviser at Harrisonburg High School for 35 years.

Mary Strickler is an English teacher and a journalism adviser. In 2019, she received the Balfour National Yearbook Adviser of the Year award at the National High School Journalism Conference in Anaheim, California.

This was a great honor for Strickler, not only because her work was highlighted, but because this is the last year she will be advising the yearbook.

"It makes me teary eyed, to think about letting go of things," said Strickler. "When they hired me, they asked me if I could do a yearbook, and I'm like, 'Well, sure.' They sent me to a two-day class and the next thing you know, I'm in it for life."

Strickler said when she started advising the yearbook, students met once a week. They had to develop their own film in a dark room and use croppers. Now, students use Adobe InDesign and Photoshop to complete the piece of work. Strickler said students leave "industry ready" with the skills they glean from working on the yearbook.

She has former students all over the country, like New York City, who have gone on to work in careers that use those skills.

Harrisonburg High School's yearbook, "Taj," has won many national awards over the 35 years Strickler has been advising. Most recently, it won Balfour's Yearbook award for 2018, which means it will be sent all over the country to yearbook representatives to be used as an example.

"I really feel like the historian of Harrisonburg High School," said Strickler.

Strickler said it has been a learning and growing process alongside students.

"It's not about tests and SOLs, it's about knowing your strengths, pushing yourself with that, so it's been a lovely journey," said Strickler. "We get to tell about the lives and the struggles and the triumphs and the tragedies of the kids."

Jan Marie Joven is the yearbook's editor-in-chief this year. She has worked with Ms. Strickler for the last four years, since she was a freshman.

"I think she's very deserving of that award. She works so hard, and I've worked with her for four years, and I can tell that she really cares about her kids, and she always celebrates us and I can just tell that she cares a lot," said Joven.

Although Strickler is sad that her time advising the yearbook is coming to an end, she said that she will always reflect back on the students and awards they have won over the years.

"Years later, kids won't remember their high school, they won't remember what they did in ninth grade or tenth grade, but we've told their stories," said Strickler.