The Gloria Shields Workshop was once known as The Dallas County Workshop. The woman who the workshop was named after was known as a visionary.
It all started 37 years ago, Gloria Shields had an idea. Her idea was to create a workshop for high school journalists who were from the Dallas area. This was created so that they did not have to travel a long-distance like Austin or New York.
“[Her impact is so long-lasting] because she had the vision to create a workshop back when there weren’t very many workshops going on and she had vision to create all kinds of things, Publications Design workshop teacher Sherri Taylor said. “This is just one of the things she created. She bounced this off of us like “what if we created a workshop”, and we were all like ‘that would be a fabulous idea and get really good teacher’s and make it really strong and powerful and very good and long-lasting’ and she made it happen.”
Shields and two men, Jack Harkrider and Jim Davidson, got together and planned everything and organized the workshop. They brought advisers from out-of-state to teach.
It started as a one day workshop, but then Gloria kept making it bigger and better. Shields knew the ins and outs of journalism because she was a Yearbook Adviser at Red Oak High School.
“I remember the first workshop, we were in a meeting room, that’s how many people we had. The other day when we started out we were filling the ballroom with 600 people and that’s how it’s grown over the course of these years,” Taylor said. “She was the seed of the germination of this particular workshop and she was a visionary. I tell people that all the time.”
This workshop has become a place where students are able to learn more about journalism, and learn ways to help grow their own publications at their respective schools. Students come from all over the country to attend this one-of-a-kind workshop.
“We’ve got the best of the best [teachers here],” committee organizer for Gloria Shields Mary Pulliam said. “Gloria tried to get [that] at the time, the people that she brought in were the leaders in scholastic journalism.”
A few teachers teaching at this workshop have seen this workshop grow from a local college auditorium to a hotel in Dallas.
“It started growing pretty fast after we did the community college. We stayed at a small hotel, Holiday Inn,” Pulliam said. “Then as it got bigger we started negotiating contacts with hotels, where we could have everything in one and no longer be using the community colleges. We’ve been [at this hotel for] 15 years.”
During the late 1990s through early 2000s, the workshop attendance was up to 900 students, which was the biggest turnout the workshop had seen. Then the economy dropped and as a result, schools did not let kids go to workshops. Afterward, the workshop dropped down to the small 300s.
Now, the workshop is back at over 600 students.
“That’s the largest we’ve probably been in 15 years,” Pulliam said. “This year we have people from 8 states. We have 8 national teachers of the year here working with kids. That’s the quality of instruction that y’all are getting.”
Not only was she known for her contributions to this workshop and scholastic journalism, she was known for her heart.
“She just inspired everyone around her to kinda go ‘hell let's just all do it,’” Feature Writing workshop teacher Bobby Hawthorne said. “That’s kinda how we all become so close to her.“
Shields was like a mother to many of the teachers who are at this workshop today.
“She was so vivid and very fun and outgoing and she was always organizing something. She always invited people to her house,” Taylor said. “You could come live there if you needed a place to live. She’s always like, ‘come on over to my house if you needed a place to live.’ She was just a bundle of fun and very accomplished.”
The Dallas County Workshop was changed to The Gloria Shields Workshop In honor of her legacy after she passed away from cancer.
“She would be very pleased to know that it was named after her,” Taylor said. “They started doing that after she died as a way to honor her because it was really her vision that started it.”
She has become a role model for people who do not always see their own pathways.
“I had a chance to be with her at the end [of her life] and talked to her and say how important she was. It was almost like losing a parent and she said to me how important how I had been that I was a great role model for boys in scholastic journalism,” Hawthorne said. “There weren’t a whole lot of great role models for boys. She said you have to just keep going on, you’re too important to not continue to do this. That was at a time when I was getting a little burnt out and it sort of changed the trajectory of the second half of my career because it was like y’know I’m not gonna disappoint Gloria. That’s the kind of woman she was.”
In the future, Hawthorne has some hesitancy about future generation’s remembering her legacy, but at the same time he has more confidence about it.
“Those of us who knew her [are] so fiercely devoted to her that we would never ever allow things that she had put her hands on to be soiled or denigrated or destroyed. Now I worry that as people my age go away, the next generation would not have known her and it kind of worries me that they won’t be as fiercely defensive of her as we would probably be, but at the same time I have confidence at the Rebecca Pollard’s and this next generation coming up and Margie Raper’s and those people,” Hawthorne said. “Those of us who knew her, she was a mentor in a way that you’re so fortunate to have somebody like her. There’s only a few people in your life you’re gonna meet who are gonna have that kind of impact on you.”