Nima Kapadia ’08, ’10, ’13 put all three of her degrees from SMU to work as a journalism teacher at South Garland High School, earning a 2014 Rising Star Award from the Journalism Education Association.
The award recognizes teachers with one to five years of journalism teaching and/or advising experience and who demonstrate a commitment to journalism education and show promise as up-and-coming advisers. The award was presented in April at the association’s spring meeting in San Diego.
Kapadia received a bachelor’s degree in journalism and master’s degrees in education and educational leadership from SMU. She started teaching at South Garland High in 2009.
One of her former students, Patricia Villacin ’14, nominated her for the award. Villacin graduated summa cum laude from SMU with a bachelor’s degree in journalism in May. She was recognized for outstanding achievement in broadcast journalism by the Department of Journalism in Meadows School of the Arts.
“During my first year of teaching high school, Patricia was assigned her first news article on the initiatives the district was taking to make school lunches healthier after state mandates were passed,” Kapadia recalls. “She understood the lengthy editing process I put her through because she has been able to compare the quality of her first draft to the final product.”
As she coaches students in crafting the written word, Kapadia remembers when she was a reporting rookie at SMU. Her first assignment as a journalism major was on “the freshman 15.” She entered the University with a solid background in the field – she had served as editor of the student newspaper at North Garland High School, then at Richland College, where she earned an associate’s degree – but says her SMU professors pushed her talents even further.
“My article was full of red marks when it was returned to me,” she says.
She credits foundational journalism classes with nurturing skills that she now passes on to her students. She pinpoints two courses as particularly relevant: Reporting I with Carolyn Barta and Reporting II with Jayne Suhler.
“My students go beyond just student and teacher voices, but rather, into the community for sources,” she says. “I attribute that to Professor Suhler’s class.”
With other professors, it took a few years for the lessons learned to sink in, she says, recalling the media ethics class taught by Tony Pederson, professor and The Belo Foundation Endowed Distinguished Chair in Journalism in Meadows.
“He probably remembers me as the quiet student who sat in the back of the classroom, but to this day, I still call him with questions about how to approach certain stories for my campus newspaper,” she says.
Rounding out her SMU experience was an internship with the Dallas Business Journal
Now she is fulfilling passions for journalism and teaching that have been alive since her own high school days.
“I would tell my [high school] adviser Scott Russell that one day I was going to attend SMU and return to become a journalism adviser, which is exactly what I did,” she says.
“The University was already a household name to me, because my older sister had graduated from SMU in 1998,” she adds. “You could almost say that I bleed red and blue, because SMU was the only university I applied to after I completed my associate’s degree.”
At South Garland High, Kapadia teaches journalism and acts as the school’s newspaper and yearbook sponsor. She also serves as the University Interscholastic League (UIL) journalism sponsor.
The Rising Star Award reinforces to Kapadia that she is definitely in the right line of work — and she remembers the teachers along the way who helped her realize her goals.
“I still consider my journalism and education professors to be mentors,” she says. “With their help, I feel like have come full circle and am exactly where I want to be.”
— Sarah Bennett ’11