The school newspaper of Oakville High School


The school newspaper of Oakville High School


The school newspaper of Oakville High School


Familiar Face

Retired Oakville teacher Jeff Kuchno’s journalism career isn’t over yet
Madeline McClusky
Jeff Kuchno works with Sawyer Bess (12) to line produce next broadcast.

You may have noticed a new – yet familiar – face in room 234. Jeff Kuchno is currently the long-term substitute teacher for Ms. Manolis while she’s on maternity leave, but he’s no stranger to Oakville. Along with teaching journalism at Oakville for 15 years until 2021, he’s an integral part of the Oakville journalism department, founder of the Oakville broadcast program, and author of “Saves” a book about one of Oakville’s most notable alumni, Jim Tietjens. 

In the span of his teaching career, Kuchno has earned many awards, the most noteworthy being the JEA Lifetime Achievement Award, which he will be receiving on Saturday, April 6, at the National High School Journalism Convention in Kansas City. He’s also gotten a special recognition in JEA Broadcast Adviser of the Year (2017). Along with that, during his teaching, his students have won many awards as well. 

In 15 years at Oakville, his students won over 75 individual national awards. 

“Our [Oakville’s] publications earned five Best of Show honors,” Kuchno said, “four Pacemaker finalists and two Pacemaker awards.” 

These accomplishments are just small parts of Kuchno’s career in journalism, as his beginning dates all the way back to when he was in high school, working on the school newspaper as sports editor at Vianney. Kuchno’s journalism experiences weren’t over after high school though, going on to work for the school newspaper as sports editor again at University of Missouri – St. Louis, along with working at the campus radio station and the Sports Information Office. 

“Eventually, cable TV became a thing. So I interned at a cable TV company and wrote for the journal newspaper, all while in college,” Kuchno said. “After that, my first job was in television. I was the producer director at the American Cablevision of St. Louis, located in North County.”

After that, Kuchno was hired in 1998 as sports information director at University of Missouri St. Louis. After being the sports information director for eight years, Kuchno began to explore education.

“At the time I was working, it didn’t pay very much and I realized I couldn’t support a family with that position,” Kuchno said. “I needed to find some sort of change in career.”

Luckily for Kuchno, he was at the right place at the right time and found what he was looking for.

“One day, this guy walked into my office, his name was Todd Gurnow,” Kuchno said. “He used to be an assistant sports information director at Central Missouri in Warrensburg and I knew him from being in the same conference with that school. When he came in I said to him ‘Todd, what are you doing here?’ And he goes, ‘I’m taking classes, getting my certification and degree and teaching in journalism.’ All of the sudden, it was like a light bulb lit above my head, and I thought that is something I would love to do.”

It didn’t take Kuchno long to switch paths to teaching, first beginning this career by student teaching at Hazelwood West High School. Soon after that, the head yearbook advisor announced she was leaving and Kuchno took her spot becoming yearbook advisor and a journalism teacher.

“So, I was at Hazelwood West for 10 years, but then the job opened up here [Oakville],” Kuchno said. “I had recently moved to Oakville three years prior and I knew the journalism teacher here from journalism meetings and I told him I’d be interested in the job.”

With many ideas to incorporate into the journalism program at Oakville, he was hired.

“When I told the OHS principal (Bill Scheffler) about my vision for the Oakville journalism program during our interview, he nearly jumped out of his seat when I told him that I wanted to start a broadcast journalism program,” Kuchno said. “I knew right then that I had the job.”

His founding of the journalism program has been the basis for many former students to start careers in journalism.

“One of our first line producers works in video and audio production in New York. Our first co-anchor is now a studio host for telecasts with the Carolina Hurricanes of the National Hockey League,” Kuchno said. “Another student is a news director at a network station in Jefferson City. Those are just some of our success stories. But there are many more. So many students have taken advantage of the opportunity to embrace a real-life hands-on activity to create memories that live on today. The first few years of Channel 97 News created a positive vibe in the building, and I am pleased to see the program still thriving today under the direction of Ms. Manolis.”

Kuchno has been an integral part of the broadcast program here at Oakville, we wouldn’t have it without his ideas. But, he has contributed a lot more to the English and journalism community outside Oakville as well. Since his retirement in 2021, he’s written a book about a former Oakville grad, Jim Tietjens titled “Saves”. Tietjens is a retired American soccer goalkeeper who’s had his fair share of fighting many medical problems including heart transplants and cancer.

“So in fact, as the broadcast teacher, we did a story on him [Tietjens],” Kuchno said. “I knew what was happening with his story, but after I retired I just approached him at the gym and said ‘Has anyone ever talked to you about writing a book about your life story?’ and he said, ‘No, but I’ve always thought about it and I would love it,’ and I said ‘Well, I think I can help you with that.’ So, I did. I sat down and interviewed him at least 15-20 times, each interview session about an hour, hour and a half,” Kuchno said, “I had notes about three inches thick and pulled it all into a book. I composed his story, but it’s his voice, his words.”

Subbing for a teacher here at Oakville isn’t a first for him as he’s subbed twice since retirement for two other journalism teachers on maternity leave at Lindbergh High School. In a way, he still hasn’t retired as he continues to contribute to the journalism and teaching community through subbing. Through his career, Kuchno has made many, many accomplishments to not only the Oakville community but the journalism community even from his early days as a college student. This has been shown through his years of dedication, experience, and awards he and his students have received, but the awards aren’t the most important and rewarding part for him.

“The awards are nice, but I’m most proud of seeing students leave our program with the knowledge that they can overcome challenges and create something great if they put in the time and effort to get it done,” Kuchno said. “Young people often fail to realize just how much potential they have. They are capable of producing so much more than they normally do. I always pulled them up and encouraged them to reach for their potential.”

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About the Contributor
Madeline McClusky
Madeline McClusky, Reporter
Hi! I'm Madeline, a sophomore here at Oakville. I run cross country and track and I'm really interested in investigative journalism and politics. I'm really looking forward to writing and sharing stories as my first year on newspaper staff!

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