Please Wait a Moment

2023-24 NSPRA Front-Runner: Kate Crowder

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.

Kate CrowderKate Crowder 
Communications Supervisor
Germantown Municipal School District
Germantown, Tenn.
NSPRA Southeast Region

I believe school PR/communications is something like a symphony. Each day, we're the conductors of a diverse ensemble, orchestrating the balance of social media, media relations, events, programs, campaigns and more. It’s a role filled with exciting crescendos and unexpected improvisations, where every morning the curtain rises on new challenges and opportunities for inventive storytelling. It’s a world where learning and growth are as constant as the rehearsals, continuously refining our skills and performance. And the community? It’s like being part of a warm, inclusive cast, with colleagues from all over the country sharing the same passion and dedication for their students. In this profession, we don’t just work together; we create an ongoing, collaborative masterpiece, celebrating the wins and learning from every twist in the plot! But what truly elevates this profession is that we remain devoted to something I can pour my soul into—celebration of public education for all students.

My greatest school PR success was diving headfirst into NSPRA and my state chapter, the Tennessee School Public Relations Association (TNSPRA). I couldn’t begin to explain the value it has brought to me! It all started with being bold enough to seek mentors in the SPRA community and, when the moment was right, stepping into those shoes for others. I thrive on sharing resources and brainstorming out-of-the-box ideas with my TNSPRA peers. Another success has been the joy of crafting and nurturing my own communications team. From a solo act to a dynamic trio, I worked with my superintendent to expand my team. Crafting a compelling case for this expansion and then pouring my energy into each team member has been incredibly rewarding.

My greatest school PR challenge was...It's a tale as old as time—striking that elusive work-life balance. Juggling the demands of this job with time for family, friends and personal commitments can be challenging. And let's not forget the emotional toll: Carrying the weight of work can sometimes feel like holding up the sky. Yet, in these moments, my secret weapon is humor. Finding laughter in the midst of chaos, seeing the light in the darkest of workdays—it's my way of keeping the scales balanced.

 My favorite part of my job is...There's nothing more fun than crafting an unconventional approach to storytelling, be it celebrating an unsung hero in our community or sharing a unique student or staff story. I love the freedom to color outside the lines, to break the mold and bring something novel to our school's narrative. This freedom, encouraged by the world's greatest superintendent, allows me to explore avenues like writing songs, producing student-led films, building parade floats or rebuilding engagement campaigns. The best part of each day is when my high school student interns come to the office in the afternoon. They bring a certain brilliance to our projects, reminding me constantly of the direct impact we as professionals can have in shaping the future.

The communication tool I use the most is...undoubtedly, it's AI/ChatGPT. I am slightly obsessed! I talk with it so often that my young daughter humorously thinks it's named Chad! In the short span of six months, it’s become an important part of my workday. It's hard to imagine how I managed without it. AI has tripled my output. I'm excited to see where this technology will take us next. It’s more than a tool; it’s like a zany assistant that can read and transcribe things double fast.


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.