Please Wait a Moment

2022-23 NSPRA Front-Runner: Joëlle Doye

NSPRA Front-Runners are members identified by the NSPRA Executive Board as emerging leaders who are doing outstanding work for their schools, their chapters and for NSPRA. The annual distinction recognizes four members, each from a different NSPRA region.

Joëlle Doye Joëlle Doye 
Communications Director
Mineral Point Unified School District 
Mineral Point, Wis.
NSPRA North Central Region

I believe school PR/communications is essential. No matter if your district has 772 students (like mine) or tens of thousands. No matter if you’re rural, suburban, or urban. Zip code shouldn’t determine whether students and staff have their stories told or not.

My greatest school PR success was all the relationships I’ve built. School PR is nothing without relationships. All our success is dependent upon engaging our students, staff, and communities. The relationships I’ve formed with colleagues, superintendents, and other school leaders throughout the state and country inspire me and help make me a better person for the stakeholders I serve. I also take great pride whenever I hear of another smaller school investing in school communication. Knowing my district was a trailblazer in this area, I feel an obligation and responsibility to help champion this cause.

My greatest school PR challenge was creating some resemblance of a work/life balance, which I’m always trying to improve upon (and need to improve upon, to be honest). We know these jobs can be 24/7/365 if we allow it. Often we feel this pressure to prove the value of our positions, but that shouldn’t mean working to the point of burnout; that’s not sustainable for us as individuals or for the profession as a whole. If we don’t prioritize our physical and mental health, it makes it that much harder to properly support our schools.

My favorite part of my job is celebrating students and staff. This is my ninth year in school PR, and it never gets old seeing students excited to learn. #PointerNation is a great place to be, and it’s my honor and privilege to share this message loudly and proudly.

The communication tool I use the most is hand-written notes and cards of appreciation. It's probably not the tool I use the most, but it's a frequent favorite. Call me old-fashioned, but I think there’s still something so special and personal about receiving snail mail.

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.