25 Years of BP Teachers of Excellence: Lee Butterfield
The importance of teacher-student communication, and how it relates to classroom success, is a common theme in our stories celebrating 25 years of BP Teachers of Excellence in Alaska.
Lee Butterfield is another outstanding educator who holds that communication connection in high regard, helping his students broadcast their stories to the world.
Every Tuesday and Thursday at South Anchorage High School, "The Den" is prepped and ready to go on the air. Butterfield oversees the production, which features a cast and crew of students producing news and announcements.
"The Den" is filmed and loaded to YouTube, then aired in classrooms throughout the school.
"To be able to present something like that is a huge amount of pride, and we all need that," said Butterfield. "Every single one of us need that. I don't think that's as easy to produce in other content classes."
While Butterfield teaches film, broadcast and applied engineering at South, his roots lie in the English department. That's where he was able to teach students another art form: crafting stories.
Before coming to South High, Butterfield worked with Anchorage School District media pioneer Dave Avery and built “content classes” at Goldenview Middle School.
"It was the first middle school, first high school, first any school streaming announcements online daily, live,” Butterfield said.
When he moved to South to continue the Goldenview program, it took a lot to build the infrastructure. Butterfield says the curriculum was written with the career technical education department.
“They sat us down, we sat down with a couple of other teachers in the district and wrote a solid four-year curriculum,” he said. “We've only added to it since."
He credits self-learning, grants and community support for what South students experience today.
The program is a pathway, or a group of classes, that covers all aspects of film and broadcast. It spans all four years of high school.
From technical skills to delivering content on-air, learning how to properly wrap a cord and honing their writing skills, students leave ready to conquer what may come.
The show always goes on, and South High has a lot to create. Butterfield says his students tackle great challenges and community projects that include producing the Iron Dog, public service announcements and local curling tournaments.
Butterfield’s lessons in broadcast journalism are focused but have broad reach.
"We can get what they need to learn about literacy, about writing, about storytelling, about judging whether or not something is a valid piece of information," he explained.
He sets the bar high but says he doesn’t require perfection, understanding that's not how things work in the "real world.”
"I think a lot of times in teaching, and in adulthood in general, we try to take away the obstacles sometimes," he said. "And we try to say we want this to be perfect and smooth so that the experience is perfect and smooth. But life's not perfect and smooth, and projects aren't perfect and smooth.”
Lee Butterfield gives his students firsthand experience in the fourth estate, and the program continues to evolve, educate and inspire.
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