‘Love the chaos’

Former broadcaster, restaurant manager turns journalism teacher

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Yukon Middle School journalism instructor Kody Hookstra, center, talks to students Reagan Curry, left, Karis Jones and Kylie Mass about their ongoing projects. (Photo by Mindy Ragan Wood)

By Mindy Ragan Wood, Staff Writer – A local teacher found his way to the classroom after a career in radio broadcasting and the restaurant business.

Kody Hookstra, an emergency certified teacher, came to the district this fall from the Woodward school district. Three years ago, he decided to put his journalism degree to good use in the classroom.

“I can’t imagine teaching any other age,” he said. “You have to love the chaos, their excitement. I like the action, the hands-on aspect of teaching journalism and broadcasting.”

Hookstra was dissatisfied with radio broadcasting because was stuck behind a desk, “turning knobs,” and spent 10 years in the restaurant business. He owned a food truck and eventually managed a restaurant before turning his sights to teaching. His mother is a teacher.

“At first, I told my mom, ‘I can’t wait to get out there and get these kids ready for the real world,’ and she was just silent on that. Two weeks later I realized these kids are already in the real world. I had a student who spent the night in a shelter and came to school with a piece of cake from last night’s dinner in his pocket for lunch,” he said.

Journalism touches the real world and the students reach for that reality as it affects them and their education. Yukon Middle School students Coy Pope and Ben Ankrom were collaborating recently at one of the five work stations in the classroom. Their story is about the new “more rigorous” standards in standardized testing.

“I like the hands-on experience of how to broadcast like a professional,” Ankrom said. His partner was reading a response from the district’s assessment coordinator Angela Bilyeu.

“I just like being able to interview people and create stories that people like,” he said.
Students are working with Hookstra to bring back a monthly school newspaper, but they are also working on broadcasting videos and audio podcasts or news sound bytes of interest to fellow students. Students publish their work to a Google site when the project is finished.

With 13 cameras and 35 students, Hookstra decided the best way to make good use of limited resources was to create work stations where five students work a project from idea to production. One stage is photo and video, another is research through article archives, the basics of writing articles and how to publish the story.

“The first two weeks we brainstormed ideas about projects we want to do,” Hookstra said.

“One came up with an advice column, another with an NBA talk, a cooking show…they came up with 12 different ideas and they all get to produce their own show.”

Students are researching the recent issue of net neutrality and slow wifi throughout the district.

Hookstra said he can see his students learning more than the basics of news communications.

“Empathy. I think they have a hard time with that because of their age, they’re just searching for themselves, but this (journalism) gives them an empathetic nature of a wider scope,” he said.

The values of empathy play a critical role as students build connections with each other and with their teacher.

“There is some debate in education as to whether students need to make valuable connections with their teachers to learn. I think if a student doesn’t trust you, they may learn but they won’t excel as far as they can. They won’t go any further than what is expected of them in the class,” he said.

Hookstra is happy teaching, but especially in Yukon where he feels he has found a home.

“I know it sounds cliché but they’re (the district) really in it for the right reasons. I feel very well guided and I couldn’t be more encouraged. It gives you confidence to know that you have someone who is backing you up.”

Hookstra looks forward to a long teaching career. He will complete his graduate studies for a degree in curriculum and instruction this summer from Northwestern Oklahoma State University.