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New Berlin trainer receives media literacy certification

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NEW BERLIN, WI – A new Berlin teacher received national certification last month to teach students to think critically about the media they consume on a daily basis.

Jaclyn Jecha, social studies teacher at New Berlin West Middle and High School, received the PBS Media Literacy Educator Certification in June.

The certification recognized educators who helped students from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade to think critically about media consumption and creation. The program included workshops in which educators developed strategies to teach their students how to better use media.

Jecha worked as a media literacy educator for the Newseum in Washington before becoming a teacher. After walking into the classroom six years ago, she saw more of a need for it, she told Patch. She signed up for the PBS program last summer when the opportunity arose on Twitter, she said. “And I’m really glad I did.”

Jecha is currently teaching American history and government to high school students in New Berlin West. In her class, she immediately applied the PBS lessons she learned in analyzing and creating media, she said.

The program focused on critical analysis of media, said Jecha. Lessons included figuring out whether or not videos have been altered, teaching students, reviewing information from sources, and providing students with tools for evaluating and reviewing media, she added.

How can people be more critical of the media? One method is to stop. For example, if you see a questionable post on social media, it should pause and do some research before sharing, Jecha said.

Another example is side reading. Every time a student opened a news article, they were encouraged to open more tabs in their browser and browse all the items and every person and organization in a story.

Media companies that practice fact-checking and make their political bias transparent encourage consumers to look for good information, she added.

Teaching media skills is important because it is comprehensive for both young people and adults, said Jecha.

“They’re on the internet. They’re plugged into their phones and consuming media all the time,” she said. “Because there is so much, everyone has to learn how nuanced it actually is.”

As an American history teacher, Jecha follows the wisdom of the founding fathers with a quote from Thomas Jefferson: “Bigotry is the disease of ignorance, of the morbid mind; enthusiasm of the free and living. Education and free discussion are the antidotes of both.”

“A lot of hatred and a lack of communication arise from ignorance,” she said. “One way to fix that is to learn more, talk more, and get more people into a room of difference and encourage conversation.”

Jecha has also been named a Fellow of the James Madison Memorial Fellowship Foundation and will be pursuing a Masters degree this fall. Her ultimate goal is to make sure her students are educated and voting when there are elections, she said.

“Of course that comes with education, discussion, and just learning to understand one another,” she said.

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