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Staff Profile: Timm Pilcher by Luke Clausen

Drake University’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication has welcomed Timm Pilcher to the SJMC family. 

Pilcher serves as assistant director of professional & career development services for the entire SJMC and academic advising specialist for all first-years and, gradually, to all SJMC students.

In addition to his duties at Drake, Pilcher currently works with the Educational Testing Service designing the journalism PRAXIS exam. Pilcher has been named an Iowa High School Journalism Teacher of the Year and is a past president of the Iowa High School Press Association.

The Davenport native earned a B.S. in journalism and education from the University of Iowa, an M. Ed. in Educational Leadership and Curriculum & Instruction from Buena Vista University and a Master Journalism Educator certificate through the Journalism Education Association. 

As focused as Pilcher’s education may seem, he did not walk a straight path to his current career.

“After graduating from high school and prior to moving to Iowa City, I was a United Auto Worker and built bulldozers for almost two years before going to college,” Pilcher said of his time leading up to college. “I was one of those poor kids in the hood, didn’t have any money, and so I had to pay for my own way.”

He went to college for three years and worked running restaurants, serving in roles from executive chef to opening a new restaurant. At one point he was putting in 114 hours a week between working and taking classes, but after three years he dropped out. 

Pilcher’s high school journalism teacher and college advisor proved pivotal in Pilcher’s endeavor into journalism education. The former convinced him that he should finish his degree and the latter to start teaching high school journalism.

“I went back and in four semesters finished both my journalism degree and my teaching certificate. Then I came to Des Moines to student teach,” Pilcher said. “My mother-in-law was executive director of the Iowa State Education Association and knew Lincoln High School needed a journalism teacher. This was 1994, I was probably 34 years old and was only the third high school journalism teacher in Lincoln’s 75 year history at that point in time.”

Pilcher left Lincoln due to disagreements with administration and went to work at a state-funded nonprofit.

“I did that for about four years, became disillusioned with the administration of the school and quit. I took a job with the state of Iowa for two years with an organization called the ‘New Iowa Schools Development Corporation,’” Pilcher said. “We were a school improvement nonprofit funded through the state. I was the director of research and communications for that.”

After the New Iowa Schools Development Corporation lost funding, Pilcher worked for four months at a “soul-sucking” job as a copy chief of a downtown Des Moines advertising agency before transitioning back into teaching.

Des Moines Public Schools called Pilcher after he wanted to go back into teaching. Soon Pilcher decided to pick up a second job, alongside teaching journalism. 

“I picked up a house painting job with a buddy of mine and went back to teaching,” Pilcher said. “I did that from 2000 to 2013. Then from 2013 until June 6 of this year I was a middle school administrator at Brody Middle School on the south side, chasing around middle school kids.”

Pilcher hopes that students who come into his office feel equipped and supported, journalistically and personally. If they are struggling with adulting, his office is wide open.

“If we are truly advocates of the First Amendment and we’re truly trying to teach our students here at Drake University, let’s be blunt, one of the most prestigious private schools of journalism in the country, then we have to give the students the tools to allow them to do what’s necessary, and we have to teach them how to use those tools responsibly,” Pilcher said.

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