According to current Campanile co-adviser Rodney Satterthwaite, Wojcicki helped establish the precedent of student independence in the Paly journalism program.
“One of the things she is a huge proponent of was student voice and student choice and making the program a student program,” Satterthwaite said. “She’s pushed that to the degree that, at a lot of schools, you don’t see … I know Woj has gone to bat numerous times for students and against administrators.”
Over the course of her first two years at Paly, Wojcicki said she worked to gradually give her student journalists more independence. From applying for a California grant which allowed her to acquire six Macintosh computers in 1987 to modernizing and streamlining design using new software, Wojcicki worked with her students to expand the publication, both in quality and popularity.
“Word got out around the school that the teacher let the students have a lot of control,” Wojcicki said. “And that I was willing to allow them to write about things they wanted to write about and do things they wanted to do.”
According to Economist’s China affairs editor Gady Epstein, who graduated from Paly in 1990 and was a Senior Editor on The Campanile, Wojcicki was able to completely redesign the publication from its conventional class format into one that allowed for student control.
“You have a chance when you’re running a high school journalism program to shape it completely, and she did that,” Epstein said. “I think without her, there is no Campanile, not as we know it.”
As The Campanile grew in popularity, garnering attention from April Fools’ editions and late production nights full of pizza, Wojcicki said by 1999, 100 students had signed up for the class. Given the overwhelming interest, she took 25 students from The Campanile and established a new student publication: Verde Magazine.
“The administration also said to me, ‘High schools don’t publish magazines. I never heard of anything like this. What kind of crazy idea is this,’ never listening of course,” Wojcicki said. “And I said, ‘Yeah, we’re publishing a magazine. Don’t worry. I’ll find a publisher.’”
Verde Magazine won a Gold Crown from the Columbia Scholastic Press Association that year, becoming the first magazine in California to do so. This was the beginning of a series of publications Wojcicki would help start, in spite of numerous objections from administration.
“She’s never really taken no for an answer,” Satterthwaite said. “If she wanted a new program, she would just do it.”
Wojcicki said she then helped hire Paul Kandell, who currently advises Verde, the online publication The Paly Voice and the journalism Incubator class. Kandell then became the adviser of Verde.
“It was beyond just controlling the product and the process,” Kandell said. “She just always loved being with young people, and they could feel it.”
Following the success of Verde, Wojcicki said she continued to work to broaden the journalism program, including an online program, the Paly Voice, and then Viking Magazine, a sports feature magazine, in 2006.
Student enrollment in the journalism program continued to grow, prompting Wojcicki to start another magazine despite protests from administration.
“The administration told me, ‘You’ve got so many publications. You’ve got so many magazines. What do you mean you need another magazine,’” Wojcicki said.
Wojcicki said administrators refused to allow another publication, so she decided to create a new section of The Campanile and which would produce Campanile Magazine, now dubbed C Magazine, the newest publication that Wojcicki helped initiate.
“Her fingerprints are all over everything,” former Campanile Editor-in-Chief Owen Dulik said. “I don’t think any of it would be possible without her.”
Throughout her 38 years as a Campanile adviser, Wojcicki said she has always tried to maintain the mindset of students first, fostering independence, freedom and trust in them, allowing them to speak their mind and learn leadership skills as well.
“What’s unique about her is that she trusts her students to use their own judgment, that she gives her students the power to make decisions, to lead, to think for themselves,” Epstein said.
Even at the beginning of her career at Paly, under pressure to be like other teachers in a time when giving students control of their learning was a radical idea, Wojcicki said she still acted on her faith in students, transforming the definition of a classroom and pushing the boundaries of what it meant to be a teacher.
“She let us, as students, run the show,” Epstein said. “It wasn’t a common experience in education back when I was a kid … There were some teachers that had different aspects of that when I was growing up, but Woj was pushing the envelope on that much more so than any other teacher I’ve ever had.”
According to her students, Wojcicki encourages her students to take advantage of this independence and create their own unique experiences on the paper.
“She likes to foster independence and creativity and get students to own their own projects and own their own learning and make it fun,” Brennan-Jobs said.
Sina Farzaneh, the CEO of Pullpath, who graduated from Paly in 1999 and was a Sports Editor on The Campanile, said he valued the respect and room to experiment Wojcicki gave her students.
“She didn’t stand in front of the classroom lecturing at us, she instead set the rules and then let us play … She let us drive our own learning,” Farzaneh said. “Giving us enough framework and letting us play, drawing within the lines. And if we strayed from the lines, not making a big deal out of it.”