by Irene Kistler, Alamo Heights High School, Alamo Heights ISD, San Antonio TX
The season of educational celebration is upon us! In Texas, teachers are celebrated through so many programs, including the prestigious Teacher of the Year (TOY) program sponsored by the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). Since 1952, CCSSO has worked to shine a spotlight on the best educators serving students each year. Celebrations are held on school campuses across the country, and the best among campus TOYs move forward for further recognition.
So does a school librarian fit within the TOY program? The answer is a resounding YES! Any teacher can be nominated. The instructional space doesn’t qualify, nor disqualify, a teacher. For instance, the science teacher instructs in a lab and the football coach instructs on a field. Are they both teachers? Yes! Where the action happens supports the instructional purpose of the curriculum taught, which is the case of the school librarian.
School librarians are the information literacy experts on campuses across the country. Our instruction supports every curriculum area and every student is on our class list. Often, we are the one teacher who follows a student from year-to-year, enabling us to align our scope and sequence to grow with the student as they progress through grade levels.
School librarians collaborate with teachers to deliver 21st century learning skills in every content area. We teach students the process of research, from creating a question to presenting the information learned. For instance, at the beginning of this school year, I taught AP Human Geography students how to research a country, from inquiry to creating a digital portfolio representative of their learning. The content served as the access point for the information literacy instruction. The AP Human Geography teachers facilitated the content, while I took the lead on researching the topic and embedding their learning onto a Google Site. As a result, the students learned research and technology skills which were transferable to their other classes. School librarians are lucky that way ~ we get to see students take the learning delivered in our classrooms and then grow it into an expertise across their other subjects. It’s those magical moments when any teacher feels like a teaching superhero!
School librarians have advanced at every level of the TOY program. For the 2015 TOY class, I was one of six finalists for Texas TOY. Katherine Bassett, New Jersey’s 2000 State TOY, is the current Executive Director and CEO of the National Network of State Teachers of the Year (NNSTOY). She was honored for her work as a middle school librarian and now helps guide other TOYs as they contribute back to the profession via NNSTOY. There are many school librarians serving as contributing members to NNSTOY, but to reach this point of contribution, they first need to be considered as a member of the teaching talent pool on their own campus.
So when your campus or district is selecting a teaching superhero for CCSSO’s TOY program, remember your school librarian. We love pouring our hearts into the kids, just like the science teacher and the football coach. Whether the learning happens in a lab, on a field or in a media center makes no difference -- we love teaching, too, and when deserved, we can be your TOY!