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School yearbooks: Documenting a year’s history

Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune/ Kylie Knab-Irish, a South Tahoe High junior, works on layout for a page in the yearbook.
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Sitting in class, senior Taylor Buttling admitted he felt pressure about producing a 296-page yearbook describing the year at South Tahoe High School.

“I hope (seniors) are going to keep it in the living room for people to see because we want them to be proud of their graduating year,” he said. “I hope it doesn’t end up on the bottom of the bookshelf, forgotten. We want it to be something they could be proud of.”

This is the time where yearbook classes are reaching a peak of heightened frenzy to produce copy and layout pages as publishing deadlines loom.



The next deadline for teacher Frank Kovac’s high school yearbook class is Feb. 10 when 120 pages must be submitted to their publisher, Walsworth.

Except for one minor crisis of missing photos, if the 15 students were worried, they didn’t show it. Buttling, the photo editor, was seen at one point toying with a camera. Others sat casually in front of computers. Senior Conor Freeman played solitaire on his laptop computer, exclaiming with glee when the cards came cascading down, indicating he won.




“Yes,” he voiced. “Hard work. I succeeded.”

But the students had a serious tone as they hovered around one of the three computers used to put the publication together. This class is not one for procrastinators.

Wanting to get it right

Each student typically carries a camera around campus, shooting hundreds of photos of teachers, students, staff members, sporting events, dances and the like.

Every student should be represented, they said. No student should have their name misspelled.

Buttling presses for candid shots of school life. The gym, he said, is particularly poor for photographs with the camera equipment they have.

“If we had a speed light, maybe,” he said, pondering the issue.

Freeman, a starting point guard on the varsity basketball team, chimed in.

“I can shoot well in the gym,” he said.

Besides Kovac, Buttling seemed to be the resource students went to if trouble arose. With his long, dark hair that bears a resemblance to “Animal” from the ’70s television show “Lou Grant,” Buttling wants to be a graphic designer. After high school, he wants to attend Academy of Art College in San Francisco.

“He definitely is a (computer) nerd and he loves that distinction,” Kovac said.

“This is a chance for us to take in and learn about a lot of things, (such as) design and learning about different people in our school,” Buttling said.

In one corner junior Kylie Knab-Irish worked on a page devoted to the five or so garage bands at the school.

“We’re trying to recognize all the bands around campus: Who they are, what they play, what they look like and why they want to play music,” she said.

Kovac is in his second year teaching the class. A longtime English teacher, he was assigned to yearbook partly because of the staff shuffling that occurred when teachers were laid off in the district because of declining enrollment.

He still has his 1976 high school yearbook and uses it as a lesson to his student. On one page, opposite where Kovac is captured in a black-and-white football mugshot, are two pictures of the same photograph of a player trying to tackle a ball carrier. A major mistake, Kovac said.

“I think the idea of a yearbook is an institution,” he said. “I can’t think of a year without one.”

I think it’s at …

At Lake Tahoe Community College, several students years apart from their high school graduation still had an idea where their yearbooks are stored.

Boston native Kelly Harchi has her yearbooks in a box at her father’s house.

“I kept them for the memories and to see the pictures of my friends when we get older,” said Harchi, who graduated high school in 1999.

Brad Ross has his in storage. “I don’t really look at them,” said Ross, who graduated in 2001.

Theresa Wolfe, who graduated in 1990, had a vague notion of where her numerous yearbooks from seventh grade to twelfth could be located.

“I don’t even know where they are,” she said before her memory ignited. “I might have one at my mom’s house. I have one in my (car) trunk.”

At South Tahoe Middle School, yearbook teacher Joe Pfeil is excited about the publication being in color. It’s also the first year the book will be composed by computer.

The addition of all-color pages only cost an extra $2 per book, meaning the total of the 600 that will be ordered is around $13,000. The tab is picked up by the district and fundraising, Pfeil said.

Danette Winslow, principal of St. Theresa Catholic School, said a parent, Stuart Lowry, introduced a video yearbook to the school that will be made by eighth graders. Two digital video cameras were donated and to help compose a “living yearbook” which will pair with a hardcover version.

“It is something that preserves the school but it comes from the kids’ perspective,” Winslow said.

A crisis, a cool head and anticipation

When the photographs of the junior varsity girls basketball team didn’t appear on the laptop, senior Jessica Bettencourt summoned Buttling’s attention.

“Everything’s gone out of the folder,” she said.

“Who took them?” Buttling asked, which prompted a brief back-and-forth discussion.

During the mini-crisis, Kovac spoke on why he liked teaching the subject. After several minutes, Bettencourt approached her teacher with news of her dilemma.

“See, this is fun,” Kovac said with a hint of sarcasm.

Last year, around December, during the heavy winter the power went out. Kovac held his breath, hoping the entire work done until December was salvageable. Only about half of it was.

Bettencourt wanted the basketball photos for background on pages 124 and 125. With a little searching Kovac found the pictures. Crisis averted.

“You see me? Breathe. Relax,” Kovac said.

At the Associated Student Body office where yearbooks are sold, Stephanie Dixon reported 550 yearbooks have been bought so far. The price recently jumped to $75 and will top off at $85.

“Every time the price goes up we get a heavy volume of buyers,” Dixon said.

“We’re really excited about our senior yearbook,” Lizzy Goldenberg said.

Business advertisements and accolades from family members help curb the cost. Without the two, Kovac said the price per book would be around $250.

Senior Alex Hand also looked forward to the yearbook’s release in a few months.

“It’s our senior yearbook and we’re going to use it to look back on (and) to remember high school,” Hand said.

Tell your story

Where is your yearbook? What are your yearbook memories? Post them at tahoedailytribune.com in the comments section of this story.


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