Photo: Nicki Stuva as they set up to shoot the daily MTC-TV news broadcast. Hesham Siddiqui runs the teleprompter computer while Zach Goldman records.
An eagle circles the air during the aptly named “pause for a moment of silence” that opens every MTC-TV “Mornings with Monroe” newscast.
Anchorwoman Nicki Stuva leads the Pledge of Allegiance and then launches into daily announcements of note to students at Monroe Technology Center – Loudoun County’s specialized high school for students seeking additional training in specific fields.
Monroe is not a separate path for students who want to eschew the standard curriculum in favor of a trade. The students accepted into one of the programs at Monroe still attend their home high schools every other day and will graduate from those schools with their classmates.
What they get at Monroe is, like the eagle in the “moment of silence” segment, above and beyond what they would receive in their traditional high school curriculum.
“Monroe is unique and precious,” said Tara Wall, who runs Monroe’s TV Production and Digital Moviemaking program. “It’s a gem, really.
“We offer 26 programs here overall, and they are specialized programs. They are programs that students can start businesses in right away. They earn college credits in many cases in many of these programs. They are getting hands-on experience. They are, especially in the case of Television Production, they ARE media producers. They are creating their own content, starting their own businesses and acting as actual free-lancers as they are part of the program.”
According to Monroe Principal Timothy Flynn, Wall’s program is typical of the opportunities high-schoolers have at Monroe.
“We now have 26 programs that are directly linked to business and industry to produce a skill-set for high school aged students, many of which provide them certification so they can go right into the work environment,” Flynn said. “Our courses designed to the same industry standards that many people find when they go on to get a technical certification.”
On a given day in Wall’s classroom, students are working on setting up and running casting calls for videos they will write, direct, shoot and edit for the class.
Meanwhile, Hesham Siddiqui and Zack Goldman are working with Stuva to test lighting and the teleprompter script for that day’s newscast.
“The way we do morning news is a completely revamped and is a first — not just for the school but for the district,” Wall said. “We do a complete digital news product that they produce and edit that is a look-live program. Then it’s housed and published on our (website) platform.
“We’re basically a TV news site or channel.”
The MTC-TV website – wearematatv.com – is a hub of activity and a showcase for the talents of the Monroe students.
Movies with Matt – Matt Rutledge — reviews “It,” “Bladerunner” and the Blu-ray release of “Wonder Woman.” Kainoa Presbitero hosts an offbeat (or perhaps even “devoid-of-beat”) game show called “The Box” There is even an award-winning film short by Zack Goldman that won honors in the All-American High School Film Festival and will be featured during a special showing in New York City’s Times Square) wearematatv.com/student-film-unseen-hits-the-big-apple).
Kainoa is a second-year student in the Monroe TV/film program and he said it has been great for him to get real-world experience at the high school level.
“When people want to do something very specialized for their career, they don’t really get the opportunity to work in the actual environment they are going to be work in,” he said. “It’s a great thing for people who know what they want to do in their life, because it just accelerates them and gets them ahead of everyone else.”
Wall knows a lot about that actual environment, having worked for TV news in her native Michigan before starting her own company and getting into video production and political campaign organization.
“I started as a local television reporter in Michigan and worked for the ABC and NBC affiliates in Grand Rapids and I ended up in Detroit,” she said. “When I was in Detroit I got recruited to work a campaign and at that time I had my own show and was covering everything in Detroit and loving the show. I reluctantly accepted and that’s what brought me to DC.”
She said she had often thought about teaching as a way to pass on her passion, and the job at Monroe opened up at the perfect time.
“Around 2016, even before the 2016 election started ramping up, I had been really wanting to focus on getting back to my journalistic roots,” she said. “I was winding down a lot of the political strategy stuff so I started making plans even before (that election) to get into teaching.
“I have always been an advocate of media literacy and teaching media literacy. I have always believed that we need to equip our next generation. As soon as I knew that I wanted to start teaching and I saw this position that was within Loudoun County, it blew my mind. This was made for me.”
Just a few months into her first year at Monroe, Wall said she thinks she has found a home.
“I have been doing what I love for so long, and now I’m teaching what I love,” Wall said. “I think it shows through to students. They know when you care what you are talking about.”
The TV/film program is like many of the opportunities at Monroe that don’t just teach subjects but prepare students to step right into the real world.
“One unique aspect of Monroe is our constructive sciences,” Flynn said. “We have built a number of houses in Loudoun where all of our programs combine — HVAC, plumbing, masonry, carpentry, all areas of construction. Our current house is on Prince Street and that’s House 10 and that should be completed in the spring. That house will be sold and the funding will go into the land purchase and materials for House 11.
“We have We have an amazing group of volunteers that are all established business leaders within the community that are part of our foundation board. There’s an architect, an engineer, a lawyer, a project all on that board who help us with the construction process. The goal is we are producing young people who can go into the industry and they have been exposed to every aspect of construction from a variety of viewpoints.”