Recognizing Some of TN’s Best

Written by Brandi Hartsell

As we head into the Spring semester and the start of a new decade, we’d like to take the time to recognize of some of Tennessee’s finest school librarians who were awarded TASL Librarian of the Month during the Fall 2019 semester. These librarians were nominated by their colleagues for their outstanding service. We appreciate each of you sharing your wisdom and experience! Congratulations!

September 2019 East TN Librarian of the Month

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Name: Lara Marler

Hometown: Knoxville (Although when I think of my hometown, I think of Hamer, Idaho, a small farming community. I’m an Idaho farm girl through and through, but I’ve lived in Knoxville for 11 years, longer than anywhere in my adult life.)

School: West Haven Elementary

Grades Taught: PreK through 5th grade

Average # of Students per Class: 18

What do you love most about teaching? 

I love it when I see that students are impacted by a lesson or experience I’ve worked hard to create. This might manifest as students being so engaged they don’t want to stop an activity, students applying a skill they learned in library on their own later, students seeing history through new eyes, students flocking to check out a new book series I’ve introduced, or students saying, “that was so much fun!”. 

What would someone see if they were to walk into your library?

I have a Disney quote on my door, “To all who enter this happy place, welcome!” My intention is that all feel welcome and a part of library. On any given day you will see me teaching using multicultural literature and often celebrating cultures. You will see students engaged in learning through technology, centers, or activities. You will see collaboration and creativity. And always, lots of student created work on display.

What are you most proud of regarding your library program?

Two things: I’ve worked really hard at collection management. I reorganized the library to make it more user friendly for our youngest and transitioning readers. We now have early reader fiction and nonfiction sections and ready reader (hi/lo and transitioning readers) fiction and nonfiction sections. I’ve also tried to diversify our collection to better match the diversity in our school. Every reader should be able to see themselves in what they read and have the chance to see through the eyes of “others” as well. 

Second, I’m really proud of incorporating culture and heritage as key elements in our library program.

What advice would you give a new librarian?

Be gracious and kind to yourself. The first year is all about survival. It gets easier after that. Librarians are some of the kindest people in the world. Develop your professional network and glean from the experience of others. You are not alone (even though it may feel like it at times.) Go to as much professional development that fits your style as you are able. Even if you only apply a tiny part of what you learn, the enthusiasm and excitement of others will refuel your spirit and soul. Keep a file of those sweet little notes students are fond of giving you. Look at them on the rough days as a reminder that you do make a difference in someone’s life. Remember there are many, many ways to be a great librarian. Do what you are most passionate about. Be willing to let some things go. Take care of yourself. 

Anything else you would like to share.

I am extremely honored to be recognized. I’m not sure that I deserve this, but thank you!

If you are willing, please provide us with a favorite activity description that we can share with other professionals.

Ah, which one to share…

I love projects that can be used across grades K-5, especially for celebrations! So with that in mind, I would recommend two books. The Three Little Javelinas by Susan Lowell is a great southwestern version of The Three Little Pigs that lends itself nicely to K-5 students working together to build a house for a javelina that can withstand the huffing and puffing of coyote! Here’s my lesson plan with links to slides and support materials: Three Little Javelinas

Similarly, Imani’s Moon by JaNay Brown-Wood with beautiful illustrations by Hazel Mitchell is super fun to use in elementary. There are a number of engaging activities you could do with this book, but my students loved building constellations out of toothpicks and mini marshmallows. We did this lesson as part of a multicultural unit leading up to El día de los niños/El día de los libros (Children’s Day/Book Day). I had a student from Kenya tell me, “Ms. Lara, I think this book is real because the women in Kenya really dress like that.” He went on to share stories of monkeys and mayhem from his time in Kenya. Super fun connection! Here is a slide set with teaching notes and links to resources. 

September 2019 Middle TN Librarian of the Month

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Name: Amber Green

Hometown: Murfreesboro, TN

School: Rockvale High School

Grades Taught: 9-12

Average # of Students per Class: 25-30

What do you love most about teaching? 

When you give students and faculty members exactly what they need, just when they need it!

What would someone see if they were to walk into your library? 

They would see me or my co-librarian helping them with book suggestions/academic research, co-teaching collaborative lessons with classroom teachers, or continuing to build our collection as a new school!

What are you most proud of regarding your library program?

It has been a rewarding challenge opening a brand-new library in such a wonderful school district. I am very pleased with our opening collection and how we arranged our space to be user-friendly and inviting! It was so neat to see the students’ reactions to our graphic novels section. I knew this range of our collection needed to be strong! Seeing students use every break in their schedule to come in and trade books brings a smile to my face!

What advice would you give a new librarian? 

Baby steps. Don’t feel like you have to do it all at once! Implement things here and there. Stay current. And always reflect.

September 2019 West TN Librarian of the Month

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Name: Kelly Shipman

Hometown: Memphis, Tennessee

School: Raleigh Bartlett Meadows Academy

Grades Taught: PreK-5

Average # of Students per Class: 23

What do you love most about teaching? 

What I love most about teaching: the kids!  😊

I am an amateur thespian 🎭 with 40 years of shows behind me.  I get to write my own script, and when the kids are engaged and learning, it is the same feeling for me as performing.

What would someone see if they walked into your library?

A small, colorful, place that is always rocking!  It may not have very book perfectly in place, and the kids are not always silent, but there is always something going on.

What are you most proud of regarding your library program?

I have a student survey I do every year, and this year one of the responses was the fun Librarian!  I choked up a little.

What advice would you give to a new librarian?

I would say there will be days when you doubt yourself,  when you are overwhelmed, and don’t want to do this anymore.  I promise you are doing great!  Find other librarians to mentor you, start a good communication with your administrators and teachers, and find the fun and joy of why you chose this profession.  If I can help, just ask!  Oh yeah, and the front office staff along with custodians are life savers!

If you are willing, please provide us with a favorite activity description we can share with other professionals. 

Favorite activity:  learning atlas skills pretending we are going after Carmen Sandiego!  They 😊

October 2019 East TN Librarian of the Month

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Name: Rebecca Dickenson

Hometown: Walland, TN

School: Eagleton Elementary, Maryville, TN

Grades Taught: K-5

Average # of Students per Class: 18

What do you love most about teaching? 

I love getting to share new books with my students,  especially beautiful new picture books–Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’O is a current favorite of mine. I also really enjoy working with other teachers on professional development and learning new things.

What would someone see if they were to walk into your library?

They might see lots of different things, from more traditional library activities like students listening to a read aloud, book talks, or browsing the shelves for new books to read, to students using chromebooks to create a book trailer, or the green screen. I like to try out new activities each year to keep the students and myself interested.

What are you most proud of regarding your library program?

Incorporating technology to enhance lessons without losing the enjoyment of reading with students. I use resources like the document camera to share books so everyone can see the beautiful illustrations up close, or nearpod to get a response from even the quiet students when we discuss books, but I try to keep the emphasis on enjoying books and reading as much as possible.

What advice would you give a new librarian? 

Enjoy meeting your new students and colleagues. Take it slow and choose one or two priorities for your first year–If you try to do everything you want to do in the first year, you will drive yourself crazy.

Anything else you would like to share.

You can see snippets of what we’re doing on twitter @EESRavensLib. I’d love to connect with other Tennessee librarians!

If you are willing, please provide us with a favorite activity description that we can share with other professionals. 

My favorite thing we do is the One Book Blitz. The entire county, all three school systems, picks a book to read together. I really enjoy the discussions we can have with students when everyone is reading the same book. Each year, I’ve done something slightly different to support it during library classes. One year we did a reader’s theater of book excerpts. One year we did a QR code scavenger hunt in the gym with the main characters.

October 2019 West TN Librarian of the Month

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Name: Sandy Scott

Hometown: Darden, TN

School: Scotts Hill Elementary

Grades Taught: K-8

Average # of Students per Class: 20

What do you love most about teaching? 

The most rewarding part of our profession is the ability that we have to affect change in the lives of our students.  We must challenge ourselves daily to be the positive change our kids need and deserve. Now…my favorite part of being a librarian specifically…..BOOKS. BOOKS, BOOKS! I am able to do what I love, which is read and shop for books.  I am able to put books in the hands of students who may not have those opportunities other wise!

What would someone see if they were to walk into your library?

You would see a bright and engaging area for students to book shop and read comfortably. I have tables, bean bags, other flexible seating, a great tile rug customized in our school colors, computers, and of course books!  When you first walk in, I have a race themed area on the wall and Super Mario around my desk. In the easy book corner, I have a Dr. Seuss theme with bright red stripes and 3-D items on the wall to engage my younger students.  In another corner, I have a Harry Potter theme with a 3-D whomping willow a life size Dobby and a Marauders Map! In another corner, I have an ocean theme!

What are you most proud of regarding your library program?

I am proud of the sheer amount of books that we have managed to make available to our students.  If we don’t have something they are looking for, we find a way to get it. Our students want to come to the library. That is the definition of success for me as a librarian.

What advice would you give a new librarian? 

Find a mentor; no one should have to go it alone.  Be yourself! Just because something has always been done that way, it doesn’t mean it can’t be done your way!

If you are willing, please provide us with a favorite activity description that we can share with other professionals.

One of my favorite activities is a lesson on biographies!  The students are all assigned a person that is important to their current class work. We talk about what a biography is and the information they can obtain from them. They are paired with an older student and assigned a project to complete.  The projects are presented in their class. The teachers really promote it, and some of the students will even dress as their person to present to the class!

 

 

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