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News will soon be shared at Lincoln Charter School like never before with their newly-launched student reporting lab under the direction of Dr. Roberta Callaway. Coming to teaching after spending 20 years in the United States Navy as a broadcast engineer, Callaway now teaches 11th and 12th grade English as well as a journalism elective class at the Lincolnton campus of Lincoln Charter School. 

Callaway applied through PBS Newshour to become part of their student reporting lab and her application was accepted. It’s still very much in its infant stages. Students who are in this reporting lab will also periodically write school-related reports for Lincoln Times-News. For her journalism class, Callaway is following the curriculum suggested by the PBS student reporting lab which includes lesson plans, assignment prompts and instruction tools to facilitate project-based learning that builds critical thinking, problem-solving, teamwork, and communication skills. 

Student reporting labs are now in over 150 schools. Youth media producers work on story pitches, scriptwriting, narration, rough cuts and final videos. Students’ stories are published on the website, shared on social media, distributed through partnerships and aired on local PBS stations and the PBS NewsHour nightly broadcasts.

“Right now, we’re gathering our equipment and preparing,” she said. “There’s just three journalist students right now as this is an elective course for seniors only. I have students in other grades interested so I might start a journalism club for them next year.”

While in the military, Callaway was responsible for maintenance of the broadcasting equipment.

“My team and I set up for the newscasts, including the lighting and the teleprompters,” she said. “After the 20 years, even though I loved the job, I wasn’t as happy with military life because I had two children. I spent a lot of time away from them and I wanted to come home and finish raising them.”

After retiring from the military at 40 years old, Callaway attempted to get admitted to Old Dominion University, but her high school records weren’t quite up to par. When she was in high school, she said that she felt like she knew everything already and all she needed was experience and everything would work out perfectly.

“I thought that I could just go back to college and just walk in there, but that wasn’t the case,” she said. “It took a lot for me to get past that, it was really a pride thing. It took about six months to get up the courage to walk into the community college because I had this view of community colleges as somehow being less – they admit everybody so it must not be that relevant. To be honest with you I’m glad I started out at the community college level.”

After taking an aptitude test, it was recommended that Callaway pursue work as a social worker or a teacher. Initially she went for social work, but after one internship at a battered women’s shelter, she decided to pursue teaching.

“I always secretly wanted to be a teacher, but it wasn’t one of those careers that you walk around and tell everybody like you would if you wanted to be a brain surgeon,” she said. “I started my master’s for secondary education and at the end, I needed nine more credits. I was supposed to student teach, but I needed a salary right away because I was a single parent, so I was offered a job at Norfolk (Virginia) Public Schools and jumped into the classroom.”

Callaway ended up in Lincoln County due to her husband’s job with Spectrum. The couple purchased property to build on just a few miles from the Lincolnton campus of Lincoln Charter School. After they moved here, whenever she drove by the school, she thought to herself, how cool it would be to work there.

“I guess I just sort of tumbled into it,” she said. “They had an opening I was qualified for, so I applied and here I am.”

For more information on the student reporting lab, visit https://studentreportinglabs.org

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