Instructors are the lucky ones because they get to come back

Co-head Instructor Mary Lou Song (left) as a cherub in 1986. Photo courtesy of Mary Lou Song

The Medill cherubs 2019 program has closed. But judging by the current instructors at the program, this year’s cherubs may remain active members of the Medill community for years to come.

Erica Snow, a recent Medill graduate, is among the few people to complete the “Cherubs Trifecta.” She served as an instructor this summer for the first time after being a cherub herself in 2014 and returning as a community associate in 2016.

“I wanted to be a CA because it was a way to be a cherub all over again,” Snow said. “I woke up every day with a smile.”

She added that each of her three cherubs experiences provided her with a different perspective. As a CA she said she got to know the instructors better and learned “all of the secrets.”

“This program has given me so much, and I had to give back in some way,” she said. “It was a no-brainer.”

Snow said she hopes to return as an instructor.

Joe Grimm, in his 11th year as an instructor and fourth year as head or co-head instructor, started working at the cherub program because he wanted to work with “highly motivated and skilled high school journalists.”

“I love this program and the people who come into it,” Grimm said. “They are talented, passionate, they take risks and they’re just fun to work with. I’m lucky to be here.”

Grimm said his favorite part of teaching at cherubs is observing the growth of his students throughout the five weeks.

Co-head Instructor Mary Lou Song got her start at cherubs in 1986 when she received a scholarship from the Louisville Courier-Journal to attend. She graduated from Medill in 1991 and returned as an instructor in 2003.

“I don’t think anybody ever leaves here thinking they won’t come back,” Song said. “Every cherub thinks about how they can contribute.”

John Kupetz has been teaching at the program longer than any of his colleagues, beginning in the summer of 1988. He said one of his favorite parts of the cherub program is that there are no grades, which lets him provide more meaningful feedback to help students grow.

Not grading “takes the worst part of teaching away,” Kupetz said. “Students can learn as much as they want without any fear of making mistakes.”

Kupetz said the reason he returns to cherubs each summer is because he enjoys teaching hard-working students.

“You are just starting to realize how talented and smart you are, and that’s very exciting for a teacher to see,” he said.

Song shared her reasons for returning to cherubs to teach every summer.

“We’re learning together, we’re celebrating journalism together, we are encouraging each other to grow and to learn constantly,” Song said. “That’s a really addictive feeling.”