and a winner of a 2016 MSLA President's Award
“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, and find your eternity in each moment.”
― Henry David Thoreau
While completing course work in my school library teacher program, one of my professors advised us to lay low, observe behaviors in leadership, identify those with influence and to not make waves in the first couple of years on the job. I often reflect on this advice as I pass the ocean every day on my way to school and how happy I am that I did not completely follow that advice. Getting involved in my community and making waves helped to advance my school library program initiatives and position the library as an integral learning resource. Most importantly, the decision to jump in quickly has made me a confident, knowledgeable, and effective teacher.
In Gloucester, a community of 30,000 residents, “Our vision is a school system that engages in an active partnership with families and the community, is proactive in honoring diversity, and meets the academic, physical, social, and emotional developmental needs of all our students”. Our Mission is “for all students to be successful, engaged, lifelong learners” (Safier). The district determined that initiatives advancing 21st century skills are necessary in order to shift the mindset and behavior of the community and school staff to align with our vision and mission.
My initial goal for the Gloucester High School (GHS) library program was to ensure that it was connected to this vision and mission by providing the resources necessary to support it. In my first year, the district began a multi-stage implementation of a 1:1 Chromebook program at the middle school that would gradually be introduced into the high school curriculum. I made myself available to assist with this initiative by heading up the high school’s technology committee. The connections made while leading this committee gave me the opportunity to build a relationship with our district technology team and assist in teaching and planning professional development around technology integration for the classroom. The focus on technology integration helped me connect with many different departments in the high school who did not understand that a school library could be a technology hub and resource center. My working knowledge of integrating technology into classroom teaching gave me the opportunity to collaborate with more teachers and incorporate technology, along with research and inquiry, into lessons. Taking on extra roles also gave me a voice with city and district leadership. I have planned, marketed, and implemented a three year federally funded after-school program through the high school library to extend the library program hours and goals. Connecting the after-school programs with the library allowed me to present our school library initiatives to city business leaders and work with the Gloucester Education Foundation (GEF). As a result of this relationship, I have written and received grants for resources in subject areas in the high school department and for the library programs.
Wave 2: Implementing Inquiry
In my role as a member of the team tasked with planning professional development for the district, I have had the opportunity to present ideas on technology integration, STEM, and inquiry programs. In my long term goals and objectives, I came up with a plan to implement a district wide inquiry model, initiated through the library classroom. I also determined that a foundation of inquiry would benefit and help forward the district's technology plans and goals. I was asked by the Asst. Superintendent to begin working with a professional development planning group of teachers to investigate implementing inquiry into our curriculum. I was able to test the model with my Critical Inquiry class students, taught daily, as part of a collaborative effort with other subject departments and a local college. Upon evaluation, I presented my practical application strategies to administration and program leaders, which resulted in the formation of a dedicated launch committee. With the support of administration, we adopted the Barbara Stripling Model of Inquiry to implement. Our staff was introduced to the model, its philosophy, objectives, and tools through a planned professional development day featuring Barbara Stripling as the guest speaker. To continue engagement and investment in the program and its philosophy, we resourced the high school's film club and produced a humorous video, Inquiry Cop. I currently collaborate across all subject departments assisting with this curriculum implementation and professional development to support the program.
Wave 3: The GHS Library Learning Commons
Being involved and having a voice in the school and community, I have systemically started to transform the high school library. I frequently have the opportunity to educate on how libraries and programs are evolving to meet our students’ 21st century learning needs and how a Library Learning Commons is part of this evolution. For example, I was invited to speak and present on the Library Learning Commons model at an education forum hosted by the GEF, One of the outcomes of the presentation was the attention it received from the leadership at our innovation middle school. A dedicated team and a grant from the Education Foundation transformed an underutilized and unstaffed library space at the middle school into a working Library Commons. This transformation necessitated the hiring of a second certified School Library Teacher for the district. In our world where positions are being cut, it is wonderful to be a part of a community that sees the importance for Library Teachers and programs.
Safier, Richard. "Superintendent's Office - Gloucester Public Schools."Superintendent's Office -
Gloucester Public Schools. Gloucester Public Schools, 2015. Web. 18 Mar. 2016.
Stripling, Barbara K. "Fostering literacy and inquiry." School Library Journal Sept. 2003: S5+.
Educators Reference Complete. Web. 18 Mar. 2016.
Taormina, Jenna. "Gloucester Libraries Look to the Future." The Gillnetter. SNO Sites, 25 Nov.
2014. Web. 17 Mar. 2016. <http://thegillnetter.com/1154/news/gloucester-libraries-look-to-the-future/>