The Michigan Interscholastic Press Association has honored Midland High School teacher James Woehrle with its 2016 Golden Pen Award.

James Woehrle, left, works with students on the Focus staff at Midland High School.

James Woehrle, left, works with students on the Focus staff at Midland High School.

Woehrle was honored at MIPA’s Spring Awards and On-Site Contests on April 21 in Lansing, along with more than 2,500 contest winners in the organization’s statewide scholastic journalism contest.

The Golden Pen is the highest award MIPA bestows on a student media adviser and has been bestowed 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.

“Jim Woehrle’s classroom represents what is so special about scholastic journalism, and he embodies the characteristics of what makes a great journalism teacher,” said Jeremy Steele, executive director of MIPA and a faculty member in the Michigan State University School of Journalism. “Jim empowers his students with the knowledge they need to produce great journalism and gives them the freedom to reach their full potential.

“And when those students leave his classroom, they’re better writers, stronger communicators and more informed citizens.”

Woehrle has advised Midland High School’s student newspaper, Focus, since 2000. In that time, the newspaper has earned 13 Spartan Awards, the highest award MIPA gives to student media, and a National Scholastic Press Association Pacemaker. In addition, he is an instructor at the MIPA Summer Journalism Workshop at Michigan State University and is a frequent presenter at MIPA conferences.

“When most high school programs are designed to prevent from students from failing at all costs, even if it means threatening their grades or making decisions for them, the Focus puts all the responsibility on the student editors and staff, giving them unprecedented control over what they create,” wrote Focus Editor-in-Chief William Hackbarth and Managing Editor Megan Nylund in their nomination of their teacher. “While he would never take credit, Jim Woehrle is directly responsible for this amazing environment.”


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.