After working as a news photographer for Univision, CNN and Channel 10 — and after winning three Emmys — Rudy Diaz decided to become a TV production high school teacher.
He credits his film professor at the University of Miami, Anthony Allegro, for making the choice easy.
“I wanted to be like him – I saw the difference he made,” said Diaz, of his decision to switch careers 26 years ago. “I got real-world experience first and then I became a teacher.”
He came full circle last week when the school where he teaches film and broadcasting — South Miami Senior High — inaugurated its new newsroom, resembling the set of a major news station. The studio, along with the audio and visual control room, doubles as a classroom; Diaz teaches the program’s 90-100 students how to conduct live news segments.
Diaz and his students spent two-and-a-half months after school and on weekends assembling the studio’s parts, which came equipped with sleek TVs, donated by Univision’s news program, Primer Impacto.
“The students have taken great pride in this,” Diaz said.
The school’s magnet programs offer digital media, fine arts, photography, music and TV production. Diaz teaches his students scripting, production, camera operations, lighting and sound, among other techniques.
CobraTV.net, named after the school’s mascot, has two broadcasts every weekday at 9:15 a.m. and 2:11 p.m., which are produced and hosted entirely by students. Their peers watch them from their TV-equipped classrooms.
Senior Marineth Sierra, 17, who hopes to be a news anchor for Good Morning America, co-hosts the shows with Robert Rivera, a junior. Their announcements cover school-related topics, such as updates for the ping-pong club, English Honor Society and scholarship opportunities for prospective college students. They also remind their peers to hash-tag newsworthy Instagram pics to CobraTV8.
D’Varius Wright and Maxx Rodriguez host the sports segments.
Rivera, the co-anchor, says the TV production program “is different from a normal high school experience.’’ In the studio he’s the anchorman, donned in dress shoes, slacks and a long-sleeved dress-shirt and tie. Off-air, he’s back to being a regular junior.
The students credit Diaz for making the broadcasting program so professional.
“TV production keeps evolving so it’s Mr. Diaz’s dream to surpass the limits through his visualization for the digital age,” said Gabriel Lazama, a junior. “He wants to take the concepts of other channels and use that same tone and purpose for South Miami Senior High.’’
Plaques and bios of the school’s alumni dot the studio walls. Among them: Jessie Rodriguez, senior producer at MSNBC; Carlos Suarez of Miami’s WPLG Channel 10 News; Andrea Wontor of WCBD in Charleston, S.C.; Ryan Young of WSB in Atlanta; Marissa Bagg, a reporter for WPTV in West Palm Beach; and her sister Julia Bagg, a reporter for NBC 6.
Julia came to the ribbon-cutting ceremony to congratulate her former teacher.
“This man taught me how to shoot when I was 14,” she told the students, later saying, “I have no excuse not to be good at what I do. He’s the kind of guy you want to make proud. He’s so committed to his students…he treats us like we’re his kids.”
She left for Sochi, Russia, on Wednesday to cover the Winter Olympics.
Said Principal Gilberto Bonce: “We have an incredible program led by a remarkable teacher. These skills are worth a fortune, especially if students want to go into the private sector.”