Sunday, March 30, 2014

Why a Librarian, You Ask?

As you can see, April is School Library Month, and so I am joining other librarians in my Twitter Professional Learning Network (PLN) to share stories on how we ended up as librarians. Funny how a tweet can quickly turn into a hashtag. You can read Andy Plemmon's story HERE and Sherry Gick's story HERE, and follow #whylib on Twitter to read more stories.

Here is my story...
I have loved to read as long as I can remember, but I honestly never thought I would be a librarian. When I was young, I really wanted to go to law school and become a lawyer and then  a judge. When I went to college, I studied criminal justice and received a degree in Criminology & Corrections. I toyed with the idea of going into law enforcement, but ended up as a parole officer in Houston, Texas during a time when the state prison system was letting out inmates by the hundreds each day. I had over 300 parolees on my caseload, with home visits being required for most of them. For those who haven't seen me in person, I am about 5'3"... you can probably guess that this was probably not the best fit job for me. I lasted a year, and fortunately we were moving out of Houston, so a new job was needed. I decided maybe criminal justice wasn't the right field for me, but I also knew I definitely wanted to make a difference in the world. 

For about 2 years, I worked in the business world, and then had the opportunity to begin a Alternative Teacher Certification program that our local education service center was beginning. With criminal justice, I felt like I was getting to people too late to make a difference, but surely as a teacher, I could have a positive impact. The program required you to attend four weeks of training during the summer, eight hours a day. Nervous about leaving a job without having another one, I started interviewing for teaching positions. Luckily, I was hired before I started the program, so although I would go a couple of months without a paycheck, there was a teaching job in my near future. Let me say, I LOVED teaching. I began teaching 3rd grade in 1992, when my oldest child was a little over one. It was a perfect fit- I felt like I could make a difference and I had time to spend with my young daughter. I continued to teach at this school for the next six years, changing grades from time to time, even looping up with a class from 4th to 5th grade.  Then there were a few relocations that required new positions, all still in 4th.

In Texas, 4th grade is kind of a stressful year because the students take three state exams, writing, math, & reading. The standardized testing system had changed a lot since I first began teaching, and I was getting frustrated and feeling ineffective as a teacher. 

During all of this time, I knew I wanted to go back to school to get my master's degree, but could not decide what I wanted to study. Some days, I wanted to be a counselor, other times I thought maybe I would try for diagnostician, but I was never 100% certain on anything. Part of it was that I was always looking at what degree would increase my salary, not what degree would increase my satisfaction. Thankfully, there is always someone else watching over me. I waited, and doors opened. 

By the time I thought about a library science degree, my oldest was 20 years old. It just so happened that I was still teaching 4th grade, just in a different school. I had always said that when teaching stopped being fun, I would do something else because the kiddos don't care how long you've been teaching.  It is, hopefully their only year in that grade. The joy of teaching was definitely dwindling by this time.  One day, I got a phone call from a librarian friend at my previous school. She asked if I had heard about our Education Service Center's meeting for a MLS cohort in the area. No, I hadn't, but I looked it up and went to the meeting. Ironically, the same university, Sam Houston State University, where I had received my BS degree, was offering the MLS program and it was mostly an online program. 

I signed up and began the program, even convincing my friend Nitza Campos to join me. That was in January of 2011. Fortunately,  the librarian job on my campus became available for the next school year- doors opening....  I started in that position while completing my degree and within 18 months, I graduated with my MLS. That was just three short years ago, and every single day that I walk into the library, I am thankful for the opportunity to be there and to make a difference. 

I am also thankful for the inspiration and encouragement I get from my PLN on Twitter. When I was in grad school, one of the professors had us create a Twitter account. This was probably one of the best things that happened to me as a library student. I discovered two awe-inspiring librarians named John Schumacher  and Shannon Miller and began following them. Then I checked out who they followed and found others who equally inspired me. Eventually, there would be many, many people I would add to my PLN, like Andy & Sherry, Matthew Winner, Jennifer Reed, Margie (aka: @loveofxena), authors, illustrators, technology tools, and I would even find my #TLBFF's (Nancy Jo Lambert, Cynthia Alaniz & Tina Berumen) who encourage & inspire me a little closer to home (they are also in Texas!) There are truly so many inspiring librarians!

So from parole officer to teacher to librarian... not exactly the route I would have guessed, but maybe you have to travel the path to wind up exactly where you are meant to be...Being  a teacher-librarian is rewarding and the PERFECT job for me! Books & kiddos, with some technology mixed in... what's not to love?? And the icing on the cake- receiving emails like this from a student just this past Friday night.

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That's #whylib! :) Happy School Library Month! Lives Change @ Your Library!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Student Review of the New MakerSpace by Sierra & Kayla

Hey, this is Sierra and Kayla filling in for Mrs. Ford! This is the first time that we  got to see the maker space room. It was so fun there was Legos, K'Nex , and Little Bits. This Maker Space room is fun for kids to Create, Connect, Collaborate! In the room many kids enjoyed the Little Bits! Little Bits are fun creative circuits that you connect to make lights come on, and motors start up! This was a very enjoyable visit, I know that everyone loved it. To be honest though, We believe that 2nd-6th enjoy and use it the most! I would not recommend K-1st to use it because there are a lot of higher level thinking tools in this particular area. To conclude this, everyone really enjoyed this fun Creative Room.

Collaborating & Creating During Library Centers

It has been a whirlwind two weeks as we explored our new library centers and enjoyed familiar ones. Students were thrilled to see our new MakerSpace that was created over Spring Break! You can read all about it here:
Spring Break = New Makerspace.
It has been interesting to watch, not only which centers the students pick, but also how they interact in the spaces. Sometimes they work together to create something, and some group work individually. These first visits to the centers have been for exploration and soon there will be opportunities for bigger projects, long term projects. We are lucky that our newly painted shelves are empty and ready to house "works in progress!"

I only wish that there was more room, because the number of kiddos that have wanted to try out this space far exceeds the room's capacity! :) Some components of it have been moved to the tables in the library area, such as the K'Nex.

As students have used the different centers, I have asked them to evaluate the center for interest and engagement. It has been interesting to read their thoughts on the centers and how we can improve them.

 Just as popular as our new makerspace, has been the Rainbow Loom Table. We have joined Shannon Miller, and her students in Van Meter, Iowa to create and collect bracelets for children in Mangalore, India. Our students have been so excited about Banding Together with students from all over the country to collect these bracelets.

The students stream into the library throughout the day, dropping off their bracelets in the donation basket. You can see by the evaluation that they are taking it seriously- no talking & more time! ;)

In addition to these centers, we also have our puzzle table. We now put our puzzle together on an old white board so that it can be moved without taking the whole thing apart. This is great because we actually get to finish puzzles!

Our MakerSpace is a work in progress. We are learning as we go, what works, what doesn't, things we want to add... our original steering committee comes in during lunch to research new things they would like in the makerspace. There next big decision will be a name!

Our first week ended on a great note, with Mr. Clark, one of our student's dad, dropping off a bag of goodies! The students were excited on Monday to start exploring these items! And we are looking forward to reading all about 3D printers in the new Make: magazine! This might just be our next item to add to our makerspace!

 What would you add to our library stations or makerspace?

Friday, March 14, 2014

Spring Break = New Makerspace

Our makerspace is finally a reality! After receiving our grant items from the Weatherford ISD Education Foundation, we knew we needed a space for students to collaborate and create. The library has a storage room attached to it with a wall full of shelves, and this seemed the perfect place to house our future Makerspace or at least part of it.

The storage room had not been updated in many, many years and was definitely in need of some freshening up. After some calls to our local home improvement stores, we were excited to get a donation of materials from Lowe's. They donated whiteboard paint, magnetic paint & chalkboard paint. They even mixed a special "Roo Blue" chalkboard paint for us.

In addition to this donation, we were also very appreciative of Home Depot's donation of paint and painting supplies. We were ready to prep and paint! As you can see by the pictures, there were several Curtis faculty members who gave up some of their Spring Break to help with this Makerspace Makeover! We even had the father of one of our teachers come and paint the wall of shelves and how much better do they look!?!?!

Here are some more pictures of the transformation! I can't wait to see the students' faces when they see their new space! 

This is just the beginning of our Makerspaces, and we are excited about creating spaces for our students to make & create! 

Now to figure out what else we need to add. We have Little Bits, Legos, and K'Nex kits, but there are so many things we could add! What would you suggest? 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Reading & Connecting with Read Across America & World Read Aloud Day Day Part 1

We had a wonderful week full of reading and connecting! It was busy, but since it was our 2nd time to celebrate these two events, it was even more fun than last year, if that is possible! Like most great events, this began with a Google doc & Twitter! :)

Our celebration actually started on the Friday before as we enjoyed D.E.A.R. time and an early Dr. Seuss Birthday. Curtis readers cuddled up with their favorite stuffed animal and read or listened to a story. As I went around the school snapping pictures, it was fun to see the teachers in the older grades taking time to read aloud to their students. The days are always so full for these kiddos, and sometimes teacher read alouds are left behind.

With Monday came a late start for us due to weather, but cancellations for many others. The two author Skypes were still a GO, so I was excited! A favorite trilogy of my middle grade readers is The Ascendance Trilogy by Jennifer Nielsen.

Our entire 5th grade was able to participate in a Skype visit with Jennifer NielsenIt was fabulous to be able to visit with her and have her share her thoughts about the characters and the story of Sage and how this trilogy began. Our students were able to ask Nielsen questions. They were also excited to find out that there would be a signed copy of the new release, The Shadow Throne, put in a drawing for one lucky reader! 

The day ended with a Google Hangout visit with Ame Dyckman! She is always so energetic and fun for our students! What was even more exciting was that I was able to bring in another school from our district. Seguin Elementary librarian Lori Tucker agreed to join us after our other group had to cancel. I don't think this will be her last GHO or connection!

Ame read Boy + Bot to our kinder students and they LOVED it! It is always so much fun to see the students reaction to Ame's hair color. 

I'm always amazed at the kindness of authors and how they connect with their readers. It means so much to our students, AND I can't keep their books on the shelves after a connection! ALL books by both of these authors are checked out! 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Charging Station Added to the Library

Recently I have seen different librarians requesting information about adding charging stations to their school libraries. They are wondering how they can purchase one. We are very fortunate at Curtis Elementary because, thanks to a partnership between our local McDonald’s on S. Main and Ebsco Professional Partnership Group, we have a sponsored charging station in our library.

 Curtis is a “Bring Your Own Device” campus and our 5th & 6th graders often have devices that need to be charged. In addition, parents who are volunteering on our campus, as well as staff, have taken advantage of the charging station.  

 It is rare that the charging station is empty, and from time to time, students may even have to wait. It is a wonderful addition to our library, and we are so appreciative of our sponsor. 

If you would like information on how to get your own charging station, you can find more information on Ebsco Professional Partnership Group's website or you can call 1-800-528-3476 to see about getting one for your library or school.