It’s a good thing the Staples Media Lab is big. There’s room for TV production classes, a radio station and recording studio, plus plenty of high-tech equipment and offices.
Teachers and students need all that space to make magic. And, to store all the trophies they win for their work.
The latest hardware was handed out last weekend at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois. As usual, Staples won several John Drury Awards — the country’s top honors for excellence in high school radio broadcasting.
But this year was extra special. Jim Honeycutt and Mike Zito were named Co-Faculty Advisors of the Year. It’s the 1st time a school has had 2 honorees — and it came just a few months before both legends retire.
The pair were cited for their long service to WWPT-FM; their cutting-edge work, and their contributions to the school and community. Nominating letters of support poured in from Staples athletic director Marty Lisevick, citing the duo’s work in creating robust sports coverage; assistant principal James Farnen, attesting to their dynamic classroom environment, and past and present students, describing the instructors’ sometimes life-changing impact.
Mike Zito and Jim Honeycutt (rear) stand with WWPT-FM’s Jack Caldwell and Cooper Boardman (and some Drury Award trophies). Behind them is a mural — painted by Staples art students — on the wall outside the Media Lab.
Sunday’s awards ceremony was emotional, Zito admits. He and Honeycutt have known one each other since the 1970s — when neither was yet teaching.
Honeycutt was a musician, who built the sound system for Barnaby’s in Bridgeport. Zito was the DJ there.
“We were in and out of each other’s lives for years,” Zito says. “Then we had the good fortune of establishing the media department at Staples.”
He arrived at the high school 14 years ago, from Coleytown Middle School. Honeycutt — formerly a Long Lots Middle School social studies and Staples computer teacher — had already moved into TV, radio and recording instruction.
WWPT- FM has won many Drury Awards. In 2011, it was named best high school station in the US.
The Media Lab now encompasses WWPT-FM and the Staples Television Network — both after-school activities — and classes in TV, radio, film, audio production and graphics.
Broadcast coverage includes live sports events, Staples Players’ shows, Candlelight and other concerts, graduation, even elections.
“On Back to School Night and when we talk to 8th grade parents, we like to say that there are many ways kids can find their place at Staples,” Zito says. “Some do it in arts, athletics or science. Others find a home here.”
For he and Honeycutt, being honored for helping students feel comfortable — and discover a new passion, perhaps even their life’s work — is “a real nice cap to our own careers.”
But the teachers are just as proud of the other Drury Awards won last weekend.
Cooper Boardman, Adam Kaplan and Zach Edelman were honored for Best Sports Play-by-Play radio broadcast. It was not even a Staples game — the trio earned kudos for their work on the girls basketball state finals (Wilton vs. South Windsor) at Mohegan Sun.
Boardman arranged that coverage on one day’s notice.
Boardman, Edelman and Jacob Bonn came in 2nd, in the same category, for their broadcast of the Trumbull-Stamford FCIAC basketball championship.
In addition, Boardman placed 2nd (Best Sportstalk Program) for his interview of ESPN personality Jonathan Coachman; Boardman, Edelman and Bonn took 3rd for Best Sportscast (“WWPT Sports Update”). Jack Caldwell was a national finalist for his Sportstalk interview with hockey goaltender Mike Liut.
But wait! There’s more!
Honeycutt’s Audio class and David Roth’s Theater 3 class took both 1st and 2nd place for “Best Radio Drama – Adaptation.” They were cited for parts I and II of “A Christmas Carol.”
Finally, WWPT was runnerup for Best Radio Station in the country. It’s the 6th consecutive year the FM outlet was either 1st, 2nd or 3rd.
It was quite a weekend for WWPT, and their advisors. So what’s ahead for the duo, once they retire in June?
Honeycutt will enjoy his grandchildren, who live nearby.
Zito and his wife head to Austin, Texas. “It’s a great music town,” he notes. “I hope to get into radio there.”
He will not win any more Drury Awards. But SXSW — watch out!
To watch the award-winning live radio adaptation of “A Christmas Carol,” click below.