It’s a good thing that Trish McHale, journalism, public speaking, media literacy instructor and community service director, squeezed in enough time from her busy schedule to attend Laguna Blanca School’s annual gala benefit on March 13. If she had missed it, she would have missed the thrill of hearing her name announced as the 2010 recipient of the school’s Walk of Fame Award.

The honor is awarded annually to an individual or couple, recognizing remarkable long-term dedication, generosity and commitment to the school. At the benefit to help her celebrate the big honor were her daughters, Kate and Ana — Laguna alums — and her son-in-law, Mark Jensen.

Award presenters Sherri Nelson and Jim Jackson delighted in sharing how McHale’s story at Laguna began 16 years ago, when she was asked by former Headmaster Mike Collins to oversee a group of eight students who wanted to start a newspaper class.

“Just one class, for six months, with no guarantees for anything more,” was the initial arrangement. Today, McHale teaches journalism, advanced journalism, media literacy and public speaking. She produces the award-winning high school newspaper, The Fourth Estate, and serves as the director of the school’s community service program.

She has a Master Journalism Educator’s Certification from the Journalism Education Association and is a member of the Board of Judges for Columbia Scholastic Press Association of Columbia University.

McHale also oversees the Senior Project Program and helps prepare the seniors for their presentations. She coaches students who participate in the Lions Club Speech Contest and the Optimist Club Oratorical Contest, which is now held at Laguna every year. She is the Interact Club facilitator, sponsored by the Rotary Club of Santa Barbara, and she runs the community service program, which she helped develop since it became her responsibility in 1994.

McHale is credited with starting a number of programs for the school, including the student club program; the Humanitas Service Honor Society to recognize and involve students who excel in service leadership, which now has 87 distinguished members; the middle school Media Literacy Program; the Mock Trial program; and the school’s debate team.

Beyond recognizing her many professional accomplishments, gala benefit attendees heartily applauded McHale for her former role as assistant tour manager and travel agent for Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” and “Darkness on the Edge of Town” tours.

A square honoring McHale’s dedication to Laguna Blanca School will be added to the Walk of Fame at a school reception on May 24.

— Tara Broucqsault is the director of communications for Laguna Blanca School.