TUPELO • Just over two years after leaving her full-time job as a broadcast journalist, WTHS News adviser Katrina Berry-Ivy has been named 2021 Broadcast Adviser of the Year.

She was "very humbled" to have even been nominated, but especially to win.

"It's been a very different year, very challenging," Berry-Ivy said. "I'm very appreciative for the kids to embrace what we can do instead of focusing on what we can't do."

Berry-Ivy spent 10 years in the television news industry — at WBBJ in Jackson, Tennessee; KTRE in Lufkin, Texas; and WTVA in Tupelo — before making the move to education in January 2019.

She interviewed at Tupelo High School and received a call from Principal Art Dobbs on Jan. 3, 2019 — her last day on air at WTVA — offering her the job.

She began teaching just four days later, learning how to be a teacher as she went along while bringing everything she knew about broadcast journalism into the classroom.

She hosted planning meetings and had students brainstorm story ideas as she completed the Mississippi Alternate Path to Quality Teachers training to earn her teaching license.

Two years later, she's been named Mississippi's Broadcast Adviser of the Year by the Mississippi Scholastic Press Association (MSPA). She and her students received a total of 23 awards during the organization's Best of Mississippi broadcast awards in early April.

Berry-Ivy said the number of awards WTHS brings home from the MSPA competition in an average year is around six or seven. 

"This is the first time we've had that big of a statewide impact that we know of in the program," Berry-Ivy said. "I think we're looking at it differently. They're not doing stories to win awards, however, they are producing award-winning work."

Because many of her students have a desire to pursue journalism as a career, they are hungry for growth and willing to learn new things.

Among the winners was Sarah Buzzell, a junior who serves as executive producer for WTHS, where she proofs and edits packages while producing stories of her own. She was named Best News Reporter by MSPA.

Buzzell has been involved with WTHS for two years. She began the semester that Berry-Ivy took on the role of adviser. 

"That year was us figuring out that we are going to have serious stories, we're going to take ourselves seriously," Buzzell said.

Being a part of WTHS has been the most fun she's had in high school so far, Buzzell said, and Berry-Ivy helped her to figure out what she wants to do in life. She hopes to study journalism at the University of Mississippi.

Ava Lacey, a junior, received an MSPA award for Best News Story. 

She auditioned for WTHS towards the end of the freshman year and started her sophomore year as a part of the broadcast intro class.

"I had always known that I wanted to do something with journalism, but I wasn't quite sure what," Lacey said. "I had always grown up doing theatre and when I discovered broadcast journalism, I was like 'This is it. This is perfect.'"

Lacey hopes to attend a school like the University of Georgia, majoring in broadcast journalism and earning to law school after undergrad. 

Paris Lehman, a senior, received an MSPA award for Best Sports Story. She's been involved with WTHS for three years and said it "really brought me out of my shell."

"The class has allowed me to learn who I am as a person outside of sports," Lehman, who plays three different sports, said. "Doing something extracurricular outside of sports has allowed me to meet new friends and make new relationships for outside of high school after I graduate."

Lehman found her passion for journalism in Berry-Ivy's class and plans to attend Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, Louisiana, majoring in mass communication with an focus on sports media.

In addition to the nearly two-dozen MSPA awards, WTHS also received three awards from the Southern Interscholastic Press Association (SIPA), a nonprofit organization committed to helping students, advisers and administrators at schools across the South create and cultivate high-quality student media programs. 

Although Berry-Ivy is overjoyed at the success of her students in the Best of Mississippi competition, she has her sights set on bigger goals.

"I would love to see them recognized regionally and nationally," Berry-Ivy said. "It just gives them another place to shine and to continue growing. I'm extremely proud of them. In the most challenging year, they did it."

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