Tokay High School journalism teacher Roger Woo honored by state association

Roger Woo, left, accepts the California Journalism Educators Association Lifetime Achievement Award from former student Eric Johnston on Wednesday, April 4, 2012. Johnston today is the publisher of the Modesto Bee.

Tokay High School journalism adviser Roger Woo received a lifetime achievement award Wednesday from the California Journalism Education Coalition and a group of former students.

The award was presented at a faculty meeting, which provided principal Erik Sandstrom a teaching moment and Woo yet another chance to clown around.

Modesto Bee Publisher Eric Johnston introduced himself and seven other of Woo's former students to the Tokay High staff.

They were Paramount Studios visual effects producer Robin Saxen, Sacramento Bee page designer Ryan Becker, Fox 40 advertising representative Robb Wright, elementary school teacher Kate Steinheimer, pharmaceutical representative Kim Banghart-Whitehead, attorney Sabrina Scheweis-Coe and her husband Darrin Coe, a stay-at-home father of two.

In congratulating Woo, Sandstrom reminded his staff what a difference they all make in their students lives. "An attorney, a teacher, a pharmaceutical rep and several media professional. You see, they don't turn out all that bad," he said.

Woo's reaction?

"I guess I'm still rockin' and rollin'," he said, getting a laugh from his fellow teachers.

Later he told a reporter he uses humor as a way to help students become a team.

"You want students to work with you, not for you. They know you're the boss but they need to know we're all working together.

"To me this is not a job. What I do is help make responsible citizen who think and fend for themselves."

Woo grew up in Visalia and received a bachelor's degree in journalism from San Jose State University. Following some graduate studies, he began teaching at Tokay High School in 1981. He has served as adviser for both the Tokay Press and The Tokay yearbook on and off for most of that time.

He and his wife Ann live in Lodi and have two grown children. Emily is involved in cancer research in New York and Ryan recently finished a sociology degree at the University of California, Davis.

In a press release, the Cal-JEC awards committee lauded Woo for his students' many awards and for pursuing continual technical advances in his classroom.

In nearly 30 years of advising the staff of the Tokay Press, Woo's students have tackled many difficult stories: "... teen pregnancy, drug abuse, abortion, alternative religious practices — topics that many adults have a difficulty addressing have appeared in the pages of The Press," said the Cal-JEC judges.

Sandstrom said Woo has an effect on the entire staff of Tokay High. "He reminds us, like he reminds his kids, to achieve to a high standard."

Contact Publisher Marty Weybret at

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