Joshua Ault always aspired to be the next Peter Jennings. He's had a poster of the legendary journalist for as long as he can remember. He idolized Barbara Walters, too.
It was in junior high when he first fell in love with journalism. This passion would eventually set him up on a trajectory leading to a world of exciting experiences and unforgettable headlines.
"I went into journalism because I wanted to inspire and help others," said Joshua, who is now in his first year of teaching journalism at Spring Woods High School in Spring Branch ISD (SBISD).
"I wanted to give people who didn't have a voice a way for their story to be told in a compelling way. There was something about journalism that seemed fulfilling and exciting at the same time."
Telling stories that mattered
Following what he felt called to do, Joshua obtained his journalism degree from Northwestern State University in Natchitoches, Louisiana.
Soon after, he was on a mission to share stories, getting his start as a disc jockey. Joshua later transitioned into visual storytelling, taking on the role of a television photographer in Lake Charles, Louisiana. After that, he worked as a breaking news reporter in Lufkin, Texas; Huntsville, Alabama; and eventually Dallas, Texas. He also worked at WATE-TV in Knoxville, Tennessee as a reporter. During these experiences, Joshua had the opportunity to capture the essence of stories told through the lens of a camera and microphone.
His journalism career brought forth several exciting opportunities, including skydiving on TV, reporting on the stories of veterans who sustained life-altering injuries, and producing a Lone Star Emmy-winning, powerful documentary on George Dawson, a Black man living in Dallas who learned how to read and write at the age of 98.
“I had a goal as a reporter to win a regional Emmy, but I never got one during my TV career. It wasn’t until I became a teacher and did the story for my school’s website that I was able to accomplish this dream,” said Joshua.
Carving a new path
"While I got to cover my share of inspirational stories, like George's, I also had to cover my share of breaking news, which was sometimes heart-wrenching," said Joshua.
As a hard news reporter at NBC 5 in Dallas – one of the region's top TV stations – his assignments were often to cover fatal car accidents, murders, fires, and other distressing news.
"I was definitely in the trenches. It was beginning to wear on me, and I started to burn out," said Joshua.
So, he decided to hang up his microphone and 3:30 a.m. wake-up calls and traded them for a teaching certificate and a classroom full of eager students ready to learn from his real-world experiences.
"My mom was a teacher, and my sister still is, so it runs in the family. I was excited to start the next chapter, one in which I could hopefully inspire students to chase their dreams just as I chased mine," Joshua said. "Without a doubt, I enjoyed the experience I had in the journalism field, and I knew I would love sharing those moments with my students, teaching them something in the process."
After teaching social studies and journalism in the Dallas and Southlake area for eight years, Joshua packed up his bags and headed south to Houston.
He's now on a new mission to ignite curiosity and love of storytelling through the yearbook, newspaper, student-run news station, photojournalism, and the school's latest medium, the "Tiger Talk" podcast at Spring Woods High School. Regardless of the communication channels, Joshua strives to provide his students with diverse opportunities to express themselves and their ideas.
"It's a lot to juggle, but it's rewarding to see students excited about storytelling through whichever medium they are most passionate about – whether it be the newspaper, yearbook, television, or taking photographs," he said. "My goal is to make a difference in the lives of students who might not otherwise have access to various educational resources and possible career paths.”
Among Joshua's aspirations for this year is to bring back the school newspaper, The Regit (Tiger spelled backward), which hasn't been printed since 2015. He and his students are excited about relaunching it and distributing it on actual newsprint to the student body. He also looks forward to his students producing video stories and participating in photo competitions.
"Journalism offers students a wide range of opportunities to hone their skills and really find a niche they enjoy and where they can truly excel," said Joshua.
Shaping the next generation
Joshua is grateful to be teaching at SBISD. He fosters the district's commitment to helping students reach their highest potential by giving them a wide range of opportunities to explore. He also leans into the district's goal of reshaping the students' learning experience by offering a host of interactive and engaging ways students can learn about the journalism field and its many applications.
"I'm excited about this year and the many possibilities it presents for our students. I look forward to watching them flourish, and their self-confidence soar," said Joshua. "Regardless of whether they pursue a career in journalism later in life, I believe participating in activities like yearbook and newspaper help shape young minds, teaching young people to express themselves – an invaluable skill across all disciplines and in life."
Leaving the chaotic environment of the newsroom for the hustle and bustle of a lively high school classroom is a good fit for Joshua. He realizes he still has the opportunity to inspire, help people, and tell stories that matter – just in a different way. By sharing his "in the trenches" stories, he aims to create a future generation who can understand and appreciate grit, determination, and a will to make a difference, no matter what they decide to do with their lives.
With a heart that beats for dual passions – journalism and education – Joshua serves not only as a teacher. He's a storyteller, mentor, and example for his students to follow.