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Passion for yearbook drives Kiski Area educator

| Monday, Feb. 25, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Kiski Area High School teacher Paul Fantaski (left middle) looks over layouts with yearbook staff members (from left) senior Hannah Hohnan, senior Alecis Satterfield and junior Katie Aller at the high school in Leechburg on Wednesday, November 21, 2012. Paul Fantaski was named the '2012-13 Journalism Teacher of the Year' by the Pennsylvania School Press Association. Tye Cypher | For the Valley News Dispatch
Kiski Area High School teacher Paul Fantaski holds a plaque awarded by the Pennsylvania School Press Association for the '2012-13 Journalism Teacher of the Year'. Tye Cypher | For the Valley News Dispatch

Creating a school yearbook is about much more than it may seem, according to Kiski Area High School's Paul Fantaski.

“It's a truly huge responsibility,” said Fantaski, a math teacher who has served as the high school's yearbook sponsor since 2000.

“You really have to make sure you're there for every type of kid at the school and coming up with ways to reflect students' opinions to make this year unique is extremely difficult.”

Navigating those challenges and making an exciting publication that carries memories and a message has earned the Washington Township man recognition over the years at the district and state levels.

Most recently, Fantaski was honored as the 2012-13 Pennsylvania School Press Association Journalism Teacher of the Year. The award recognizes the excellence of Kiski's yearbooks as well as Fantaski's contributions at the state level as the PSPA Yearbook Chairman.

“It was a surprise for me and I was humbled, very humbled,” he said.

From the viewpoint of senior and yearbook staff member Alexis Satterfield, Fantaski is well-deserving of the award.

“He's always there for you whether it involves school or something else,” she said.

Senior Jocelyn Herstek, the yearbook's editor-in-chief, credits Fantaski with inspiring and encouraging her to pursue graphic design.

“I think if anybody deserves this award, it's definitely Mr. Fantaski,” she said. “He's taught me everything that I possibly know. When I found out he won, I was so happy for him.”

The honor isn't a first for Fantaski, who had previously been named Kiski's Teacher of the Year for 2002-03. In addition to his dedication to teaching math, the honor recognized other activities, like serving as Kiski's band announcer, which he has now done for 20 years.

The yearbook has also had success. In the past two years, it has received top honors for yearbooks in the state.

As he's worked with the yearbook, Fantaski said, he's seen it grown and evolve as communications and media have. Design and layout have changed and, in a world of Internet and social media, the written content has changed as well.

With QR codes — bar codes that can be scanned with a smart phone — the yearbook is even able to include events that happen after its deadline.

When a student at Kiski Area High School himself — he graduated in 1985 — Fantaski says he had a love for journalism and wanted to be a teacher at Kiski. When the opportunity to lead the yearbook came up more than a decade ago, he jumped at the chance. He looks forward to it every year.

“It's a love for it,” he said. “It's our responsibility as a staff to present (the year) on our pages in a way that everybody can remember for the rest of their lives.”

Julie E. Martin is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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