With an industry veteran at the helm, South Seminole Middle School’s TV news production program is as fun as it is authentic.
Take one look into the classroom of Art Miles on the second floor overlooking the grounds of South Seminole Middle School, and you’ll know this is no ordinary teaching space. It looks, in fact, just like a television newsroom, and that’s exactly how Art drew it up.
From the cubicles outfitted with monitors to the glass partition separating the on-air set from the production space, the mini-newsroom serves as home to South Seminole News, the unofficial keepers of the school’s history.
Like clockwork, every school-day morning just after 9:00 a.m., middle schoolers broadcast the news, weather, and sports throughout the South Seminole campus. Kids take turns being anchors, reporters, meteorologists, directors, and producers. It may be student Tori Campos in the anchor chair or Halie Anderson giving the weather. Sydney Gest could be handling audio for the day. It is full immersion, and the students love it.
“I like how open Mr. Miles is about letting us do the news,” says Sydney, an eighth grader, who dreams of being an artist.
Each episode is uploaded on YouTube and Facebook so parents and others can stay updated and informed. The entire process is seamless and professional. And the program is only in its second year.
“Welcome to season two,” grins Art, a former Fox 35 News video editor. After 15 years in the business, Art changed careers in 2017 to lead this new initiative.
The elective class, officially called Introduction to Arts, A/V Tech, is available during five different periods of the school day and attracted 120 students this year. Sometimes, the news is live during first period, other times it is recorded. All classes participate in recording, preparing, and collecting news; following up on breaking stories; or working on features. The entire process mirrors the real world of a TV news station, a world Art knows well.
“Two years ago, I was a volunteer here,” Art explains, noting his daughter was taking the SSMS news class at the time. “I would come in every morning and help the class with the newscast. We would record the news, and I would take it with me to my job at Fox where I would edit it together.”
By year end, Art was named Dividend Volunteer of the Year, and Dr. Mia Coleman-Baker, South Seminole’s principal, asked if he would be interested in a career change.
“It was like a one-year-long job interview,” Art laughs.
It would mark a major change not only for Art, but also in the way South Seminole looked at the elective class – and how the school’s news program was put together. Art suggested a number of changes and equipment upgrades, and South Seminole’s administration came through. Soon, his classroom was home to seven new cameras, a lighting system, 10 computers with professional video editing software, and a TriCaster that allows the news to be efficiently fed throughout the school each morning. Carpeting was added for soundproofing, and an actual news set was donated by Fox 35 News.
But the class is not all about broadcasting the news each morning. The students also learn how to use editing software, audio programs, and how to operate camera equipment. They learn how to read teleprompters and develop a nose for news. They create PSAs and commercials, and they record all band, dance, and chorus concerts as well as South Seminole sporting events and JROTC competitions.
To keep things fun, Art also initiated the Special Friday Show, which showcases freelance-based segments on fashion, sports, movie reviews and, at times, unscripted discussions. It allows the students to write, produce, and record their own stories outside of the structured world of news.
“I love the Friday show,” says seventh grader Halie, who can regularly be found on the air as a reporter, anchor, or weatherperson. “I love the freedom to express ourselves.”
Art, who holds an English degree from the University of Central Florida, says his kids have already earned accolades, placing third in a Seminole County Public Schools production competition for a PSA on bullying.
“The response from the kids has been tremendous,” Art says. “The ones who surprise me are the ones who were shy. Many of them have become my best anchors.”
His background notwithstanding, it is Art’s passion and teaching style that resonates throughout the classroom.
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“I like how everybody is like family here,” says Tori, an eighth grader, who became involved with the class because of her love of writing. “And Mr. Miles is always there for us.”