The Michigan Interscholastic Press Association has honored Ann Arbor Huron High School teacher Sara-Beth Badalamente with its 2021 Golden Pen Award.
Badalamente was honored during an online ceremony on May 12.
The Golden Pen is the highest award MIPA bestows on a student media adviser and has been given continuously since 1952. Teachers must be nominated by their students, who assemble an extensive portfolio showcasing the teacher’s involvement in scholastic journalism activities and the impact he or she has had on current and past students.
The recipient is chosen by a committee of previous Golden Pen honorees.
Badalamente has advised Huron High School’s newspaper, The Huron Emery, and yearbook, The Enthymion, since 2015, and helped relaunch Clague Middle School’s The Cougar Star in 2019 and took over the school’s yearbook in 2020. She spent her first eight years as a teacher at Grand Ledge High School, where she also advised the newspaper and yearbook.
Her students often refer to her as “OC,” a reference to her maiden name, O’Connor.
“OC is my adviser and teacher, but she has also transformed into a friend and confidant,” wrote Mishal Charania, an editor-in-chief The Enthymion and managing editor of The Huron Emery, in the nomination for Badalamente prepared by the student staffs. “OC fought for me just as she fights for her newspaper, yearbook and middle school journalists. I do not doubt that she will continue doing this for the rest of her teaching career because it is what she loves.”
Badalamante has also served as the director of MIPA’s Summer Journalism Workshop at Michigan State University since 2017. The workshop has annually welcomed hundreds of students to campus since 1984 for a weeklong program. Badalamente helped to move the workshop for the first time to an online format for 2020 and 2021 in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Her students describe her as resourceful and indefatigable. In addition to her teaching students, coaching youth sports and advising four publications, Badalamente has three young sons.
Maya Kogulan, an editor-in-chief of The Huron Emery, said Badalamente inherited a yearbook program running a budget deficit and a newspaper program that only operated as an after-school club with five members. Today, both programs are contenders in state and national journalism contests.
“She is my biggest critic and supporter, editing my articles multiple times and looking through hundreds of my photos to provide me personal and in-depth feedback,” Kogulan wrote in her letter of support. “I am not special. OC treats every staff member like this. Her enthusiasm and investment make each person on our 25-person staff feel valued. She not only believes in all of us, she makes us believe in ourselves.”
Garrett Jin, an editor-in-chief of The Enthymion, said Badalamente is a force that keeps all of the students working together.
“Even in a sea of black boxes, she continues to move forward to promote conversation and learning from others,” Jin wrote in her letter supporting the nomination. “No matter who it was she always treated everyone fairly and listened to what they had to say. As I was insecure about my role as a leader, she taught me that it was OK to rely on others when you feel imperfect.”
Clara Bowman, an editor-in-chief of The Huron Emery, said her teacher is not afraid to let her students take the lead in the classroom, while giving them whatever support they need behind the scenes.
“Before every class period, I can expect a text from her along the lines of ‘All right, team, what do you need from me today?'” Bowman wrote in her letter of support. “And whatever we tell her she will get done.”
Badalamente also has been an important resource for teachers, said Tracy Anderson, a 2010 Golden Pen Award recipient who teaches journalism at Community High School in Ann Arbor. Badalamente has been leading a group of journalism teachers in Ann Arbor Public Schools to help them share resources and strategies.
“Sara-Beth creates a community where all voices are valued and heard — a community where we can call upon each other and be better together,” Anderson wrote in a letter supporting Badalamente’s nomination.
Badalamente was named one of the winners of the American Society of News Editors’ First Amendment Challenge for her innovative lesson plans on the First Amendment in 2015. She was named a Rising Star by the national Journalism Education Association in 2011.
She has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in journalism from Michigan State University. She lives in Ann Arbor with her husband, Ben Badalamente, and their sons, Francis, Thomas and Matthew.
MIPA launched the Golden Pen Award in 1952 as one of several ways to memorialize Donal Hamilton Haines, a University of Michigan Department of Journalism professor who served as MIPA’s director from its early days until 1950. Haines also advised U-M’s student chapter of Sigma Delta Chi, now known as the Society of Professional Journalists, which was the key organizer of MIPA’s first conference on May 22, 1922. Sigma Delta Chi honored the first Golden Pen winners with a golden “key” or pin of a quill, a tradition MIPA continues.
ABOUT THE MICHIGAN INTERSCHOLASTIC PRESS ASSOCIATION
Founded in 1921 and housed in the Michigan State University School of Journalism, the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association is a nonprofit organization composed of scholastic journalism teachers and publications advisers and their students. MIPA is committed to promoting and recognizing excellence in scholastic journalism at all levels through education, training and support of student journalists and their advisers.