Good News – Spotlight Shines on Texas Librarians

by Susi Grissom
First came the news in August that school librarian Irene Kistler, librarian at Northeast ISD’s Ed White Middle School, had been named a state finalist for the Texas Teacher of the Year award.  Irene was selected as a finalist from over 140,000 teachers by the Texas Association of School Administrators, and the fact that a school librarian was honored in such a public and prestigious way was great news indeed. 

September brought another reason for celebration when Colleen Graves, librarian at Lamar Middle School in Lewisville ISD, was named as one of two finalists for School Library Journal’s School Librarian of the Year Award.  Developed with sponsor Scholastic Library Publishing, the award “honors a K–12 library professional for outstanding achievement and the exemplary use of 21st-century tools and services to engage children and teens toward fostering multiple literacies” (SLJ website). 

Colleen more than fits that description!  Since becoming the librarian at Lamar, Colleen has transformed the librarian into an exciting place where the entire school community can learn, experiment, and create.  After giving the library a physical make-over with new color, furniture, and design, Colleen zeroed in on updating technology and its implementation in instruction.  Through opportunities like “Maker Monday” workshops and “Coding and Robotics” classes, Colleen inspires her students to be independent creators, giving them the tools to use a variety of technologies and resources and then letting them explore and share their products.  She also relies on her active and enthusiastic Teen Advisory Board to work with her on developing exciting projects, encouraging their leadership and input in the process.  A certified Google  Education Trainer, Colleen received a Lewisville Education Foundation Grant in 2013 to update iPad technology for library and classroom use.  Then changing her focus to her aging print collection , she received a second Foundation grant in 2014, funding a proposal entitled, “This is Not Your Grandma’s Library, but Her Books are Still Here!” 

When contacted about her recent SLJ honor, Colleen wrote, “It is such an honor receiving the School Librarian of the Year Finalist Award!  Andy Plemmons and Michelle Colte [finalist and winner of the award] are superstar elementary, and I’m excited to represent secondary school teacher librarians.  I’ve had so much support since I started at Lamar.  My former principal, Mrs. Lewis, helped me makeover the library into a learning commons and helped me buy supplies for our Makerspace.  This award has helped me develop my library programming even further by helping me to reach out to librarians outside of my district.  Now our students are able to make connections with students and experts around the nation.” 

Congratulations, Irene and Colleen!  TASL is proud to call you both Texas school librarians!!




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