Mark Thompson decided as a senior at Buffalo Grove High School in the 1970s that he wanted to be not only a teacher, but also a yearbook adviser.
"I just connected with yearbook and my yearbook adviser, so I decided it was something I wanted to do," he said. "It was through a yearbook that I found my first job at Antioch High School, and I stayed ever since."
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His dedication to 31 years of producing outstanding yearbooks at Antioch High is the reason the Journalism Education Association has awarded Thompson with a lifetime achievement award.
He will pick up the award at the JEA National High School Journalism Convention on Nov. 16 in Boston, Mass.
"I'm not surprised by this award at all," said Antioch-Lake Villa Area High School District 117 Superintendent Jim McKay. "He truly holds himself to the highest standards. His yearbooks over the years were outstanding, and we have won numerous awards because of it."
The Journalism Education Association is the largest scholastic journalism organization for teachers and advisers. The group provides training for teachers through conventions across the country and offers national certification for teaching high school journalism.
The JEA boasts 2,500 members who are journalism teachers and publications advisers, media professionals, press associations, adviser organizations, libraries, publishing companies, newspapers, radio stations and departments of journalism.
Thompson, who retired in June after 33 years as adviser and teacher, said his secret goal was to routinely make yearbook the best part of the day for every student enrolled in the class.
"Being recognized this way is very gratifying," he said. "This award is very special to me, and I'm very proud to be recognized."
In addition to yearbook, Thompson taught English I, II and III and was the adviser of sequoits.com, which he created from scratch after being named webmaster 2001.
He also designed the district's two other websites and created and managed the school's YouTube channel, Facebook page and Twitter feed.
But, he said, his most astounding feat was in 1994 when he was approached by Jostens Yearbooks to write "The First Page," curriculum aimed at teaching journalism students to use desktop publishing. The curriculum was published by Jostens and used by schools throughout the country.
In addition to his latest award, Thompson was named to the Kettle Moraine Press Association Hall of Fame in 2000.
"It's very, very gratifying," he said about his long career. "When you do something for so long, it's nice to be recognized for the hard work."