BY SARAH TAYLOR
Summer Journalism Institute power duo Terry Sollazzo and Kerri McLean have been aiding young journalists for over 20 years. With a clear excitement for teaching, one would only hope they continue on for at least 20 more.
Born in Bradenton, Florida, Sollazzo later went on to attend the University of South Florida, where she majored in English mass communications and wrote for her school paper. Though she desired to be a professional photographer, she knew that her heart lied in teaching.
“My passion has always been teaching,” said Sollazzo, who was hired as one even before out of college. She now lives in Tampa where she has three sons ages 11 to 20, of whom she is extremely proud. She is also the journalism teacher of Wharton High School. After having recently stepped down as president of the Florida Scholastic Press Association after four years, Sollazzo now has more time to dedicate to her staff.
“When I was the FSPA president, my staff was running on auto-pilot, and it took a toll on me,” Sollazzo said.
Her partner in crime, McLean, was steered all over the country while growing up, before later settling down and attending the University of Florida, where her husband also attended. There she majored in journalism, and tried her hand at both TV and Advertisments before deciding to become a teacher.
“I loved trying every aspect of it, but my personality is suited for teaching,” McLean said. She now teaches at Key West High school, where she is the newspaper advisor as well. Her seventeen-year-old daughter Dillon will attend UF in the fall.
For the past five years, both Sollazzo and McLean have found themselves at UF helping aspiring journalist sharpen their skills. They met each other their first year participating with SJI, a six-day intensive high-school journalism camp run by UF, and have been a team ever since. Seeing each others name on the SJI mailing list each year is a comfort to each about returning. Though they have always taught editing, previous years the group has been big enough to split. However as years have passed the classes have gotten smaller, allowing them to join forces. This way, students get much more one-on-one time, allowing them to really soak in all that Sollazzo and McLean have to offer. Neither come into the week with plans; they just tailor the program around the students needs after have meeting them. This year, editorial writing is a main focus in their editing class.
An inspirational experience for both ladies was receiving an encouraging email from a previous SJI student six months after camp saying how much of an intense effect their class had had on her and that their influence changed her paper and school.
“We don’t know what their needs are at camp, but the email had a profound effect on our teaching there,” said McLean.
While at camp, both women share ideas with each other about the next year. “We are able to bounce ideas off each other,” said McLean, “We have experience to pull from each other.” She continues to say sometimes its just desperation, as Sollazzo agrees that fresh ideas are hard to come by after teaching for so many years.
During the school year, both Sollazzo and McLean don’t keep in touch as often, with full schedules and journalism competitions keeping them busy. Yet, they plan on changing that, now finally getting each other’s contact information after so long. Still, having a full year until reuniting gives them so much more to talk about when they finally get to camp. While in Gainesville, they take the time to catch up with friends in the town as well, visiting them as campers have their free time at night.
Hopefully for all the future SJI campers, they’ll both be there next year to not only catch up with each other, but continue on leading the minds of young journalists too. Both agree to coming back if asked, and would even like to take on a design track. Until then, let them continue on influencing with their passionate teaching to students everywhere.
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