Please Wait a Moment

35 Under 35: Christian Justrabo

Every other year, NSPRA's 35 Under 35 program recognizes school public relations professionals who are making a difference for their school districts or education-related employers. The sixth class of NSPRA's 35 Under 35 program is sponsored by Rhodes Branding.

Christian JustraboChristian Justrabo
Communications Specialist
St. Tammany Parish (La.) Public School System

How many years have you worked in school PR?
10 years.

What have you found to be the most rewarding part about working in school PR?
Seeing the love and support for people who are recognized on social media. I love providing an opportunity to highlight someone who may not look for recognition and giving them a platform to be thanked, cheered and seen by thousands of people. It is very rewarding to capture the moment and talk with the person being honored and the administrator or colleague who made sure their work was not overlooked. But it is just as, if not more, rewarding to see all of the comments and shares on a post. It makes me feel special to know that I played a part in making someone else feel special.

What have you found to be the most challenging part about working in school PR? How do you approach those challenges?
The most challenging part of working in school PR is striking a balance between the old and the new. Acknowledging the work that has led to the system’s success while challenging the “this is how it’s always been done” mentality in an effort to make improvements. I approach that challenge by gathering research, surveying the target audience and bringing everyone to the table for conversation and feedback. I believe by giving people the opportunity to speak and listen, and using data to back up decisions, accomplishing change happens more effectively. I think in any profession, there should be a willingness to adapt (whether it be tried and true, or new) and always look for ways to improve.

What has been your most fulfilling professional experience thus far?
There is no one thing that has been the most fulfilling professional experience thus far. I think what is most fulfilling is seeing the progression of my work. Looking back at where I started, what my responsibilities were to where I am now, reflecting on the challenges I took on, the ideas I pushed even though I was hesitant to push them, the mistakes I made that ultimately make my work better—that is fulfilling. The progression of trust, responsibilities, relationships, workflows and knowing there is more to experience is an amazing feeling. The journey is fulfilling. Growth is fulfilling.

Anisa Sullivan Jimenez

Anisa Sullivan Jimenez, APR
Director of Communications
Oconee County Schools
Watkinsville, Ga.

Alma Mater:

B.A. - Mississippi State University; MPA - University of Georgia

I believe school PR/communications is what I was born to do! One of the biggest decisions a parent can make is where to send their child to school, and it’s an honor to share with our parents the engaging work that their children are doing under the guidance of world-class teachers and leaders. On any given day, in any given school, there are many stories to be told and I take that charge seriously. As school communicators played a key role in COVID-19 communications, storytelling was more important than ever – not only did I share information with parents about our protocols, but I also made over 80 visits to schools last year and told a variety of stories about how students were thriving with both in-person and distance learning options. I also worked with principals to determine best mitigation practices and helped make those pervasive, because positive action must be the foundation of what we are ultimately communicating. School public relations is incredibly complex and I love that each day brings a new challenge.

My greatest school PR success was completing 11 nationally-innovative school communication audits using a process of research, planning, implementation, and evaluation. I am now in phase two of this project and am attending school council meetings to garner feedback from parents about school-level communication and how I can better support the work of their schools. One of the most significant findings is that as students take more ownership of their learning, they also take more ownership in parent communication. Therefore, next steps are to better prepare parents for this transition and to also determine best practices from exemplar teachers and coaches at the secondary level so we can strike the right balance with parents feeling informed and fostering student independence.

My greatest school PR challenge is overcoming rigidity. Like many PR professionals, I am detail-oriented and a self-described perfectionist. It’s a blessing and a curse to see when something is one pixel off, but the greatest challenge I have faced in my 13 years in this field is to learn to be more flexible. I might have an aversion to Comic Sans or Curlz, but it’s not the end of the world if those are a font favorite elsewhere. What’s more important is the bigger picture – staff and parents feeling well-informed and students growing and learning in positive school cultures. Instead of telling someone their website isn’t formatted properly, I now make a 2-3 minute screencast if I think there’s a quick tutorial I can offer to provide ongoing professional learning. By being much more flexible, I have deepened relationships and become better at supporting the most important job that occurs in our school system: teaching.

My favorite part of my job is the relationships. I often say that there is no substitute for showing up, and that’s why I make so many school visits each year. From getting to hold a gorgeous monarch butterfly to watching a vibrant student musical to seeing 3-D printing in action from engineering students, I have witnessed countless unique opportunities, and these experiences are just a small piece of what our students get to take part in each and every day. If I didn’t take the time to form relationships, I wouldn’t know that what students value is knowing that the photos I take may show up in their yearbooks. I wouldn’t know the myriad of annual activities that teachers do across our schools because I wouldn’t have witnessed them firsthand. I wouldn’t know about the families of our principals or what they believe makes their school unique. All of that is invaluable because at the end of the day and at the end of this career, relationships are what will remain – both professionally and personally.

The communication tool I use the most is Canva! I would be a brand ambassador if they asked! I am not very mathematically-minded and it can be challenging for someone with an eye for good design – but not an eye for rulers and gridlines – to be a graphic designer. However, Canva has made it possible and I am able to create aesthetically-pleasing graphics with short turn-around times. I have trained communication ambassadors at our schools how to use it as well. Right after Canva, the tool I most use is iMovie. I am completely self-taught in videography and using iMovie and Canva together has made me someone who can add “videographer” to their list of expertise.