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Catchin' Up NCSLMA's Media Coordinator of the Year

Catchin' Up with Meredith Hill

In today's post we'd like to introduce you to NCSLMA's 2015 Media Coordinator of the Year Award recipient, Meredith Hill. She has been the media coordinator at Creekside Elementary School in Pitt County for seven years and worked previously as a Reading Recovery teacher©. Meet Meredith and find out for yourself why she's this year's award winner! When you're done reading this interview, visit her blog to see examples of the many projects and activities referenced here.

What is your philosophy about the media center and its role in the school environment?

Why are you a school librarian? I've been asked this many times over the last seven years, and my answer varies depending on the situation. Sometimes I answer a simple, yet absolutely true, "Because I love it." Other times I give a more complex answer about school librarianship reflecting my personal, professional, and societal beliefs and values. I believe in a society where everyone has a voice, even the youngest child. The library is a place where all are welcome, all are valued, all are allowed to seek knowledge and understanding, and each child can feel a sense of belonging and acceptance. I'm a lifelong reader and learner, and see the library as a place of learning, growth, creativity, and exploration. The library provides opportunities to enrich lives, push boundaries, enhance critical thinking, and deepen understanding of the world in which we live -- whether it be through a book or the latest technology. Finally, I see myself as a servant, and being a librarian allows me the privilege to perform acts of service for students, teachers, administrators and parents every single day.

Would you describe some special programs you use to actively involve students in learning and/or to promote literacy?

I teach units in both primary and intermediate grades using Common Sense Media's Digital Citizenship curriculum. Through these lessons I can reach students in ways that are relevant and personal, teaching them to recognize the power of their words in their digital lives and responsibility they have to each other as global citizens to use information and technology in ethical ways. We learn about things like creating safe usernames, cyber-bullying, evaluating websites, and finding images labeled for reuse in their projects. These lessons enable students to share their experiences in meaningful ways while learning strategies to be effective users of technology. 

Young Men of Purpose

Young Men of Purpose is a collaborative effort between the assistant principal, the school counselor, the instructional coach, and myself to promote leadership and citizenship in our male students. I was able to secure grant funding to support this program from a local law firm as well as Donors Choose. Our goal is to address the needs of the whole child and help the students realize their leadership potential. A group of 4th and 5th grade boys is hand-selected to receive character education. The students wear ties on the days we meet and eat lunch in the media center. Men from the community are invited to speak to the boys about habits they incorporate in their professional and personal lives to build success and relationships. Speakers have included our city mayor, a hospital administrator, a high school coach, and a JROTC instructor. The boys also come to the media center to read comic books and discuss behaviors that make the characters successful in their work and relationships. Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens is used to help the students pinpoint comic book characters' success-oriented behaviors. The culminating activity is a field trip to a local manufacturing company where the employees host a tour of the facility and discuss the habits that make their company successful.  

Fostering a love of literacy is one of the most joyful parts of being a school librarian. Many of the students at my school are in poverty and come from literature-poor homes. It's hard to fall in love with books when you have few to no books at home to read. One way I try to help this situation is to conduct books swaps twice a year. Families donate gently used books throughout the year, and all students are allowed to participate. Each semester over a thousand books are sent into students' homes through this program.

I also use interactive bulletin boards called Boards for Books to get books into students' homes while encouraging responses to literature. Students complete an activity related to the bulletin board and place it in a designated box in the media center. Each week I draw a student's completed activity and announce the winner during morning announcements. The winning student may choose three books from the books swap inventory. Boards for Books activities and themes include using the Dewey Decimal System, recommending a funny book, sharing about a book within a certain genre, and giving examples from a book using the THINK acronym (True, Helpful, Inspiring, Necessary, Kind).

A favorite day for our younger students is our annual Holiday Story Hour. All 18 of our PreK -1st Grade and EC classes rotate through stations in the library before winter break. Students wear their pajamas, having their golden ticket punched at the door. They hear a guest speaker perform 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, listen to The Polar Express, enjoy hot chocolate and cookies, and receive a sliver bell on a red ribbon. We try to make it a magical time for the students to experience the Christmas spirit through poetry and literature.

 How do you use technology to develop media and information skills?

In the the years that I have been a media coordinator, technology has moved from being taught in isolation to being integrated into all subject areas and grade levels. I've made it my mission to move this transition along, working to increase the hardware available in my school and train the staff to have the skills they need to integrate technology into their instruction. Maintaining a positive attitude, leading by example, being willing to provide help, and collaborating on a variety of projects has enabled me to encourage the staff to embrace technology even when it’s not easy or convenient. In my own instruction, I utilize the SmartBoard daily, using its built-in tools to actively engage students and allowing them to interact with the lessons through hands-on activities. With small group and whole class lesson I use online collaborative tools such as Google Docs, Google Earth, Thinglink, Lucidchart, YouTube, and Glogster.

One of the most engaging and motivating activities my student and I have participated in is Hour of Code. Learning the basics of coding and computer programming at their own pace has been a thrill for many students, and advanced students found themselves being challenged to problem-solve and think critically in new ways. Students who felt unsuccessful in other areas discovered an area of study in which they could believe in themselves, even thinking of pursuing a career in computer programming. This year I have extended the concept of Hour of Code with our first ever Coding Club. Fifth grade students are using Google's CS-First curriculum, learning to code projects related to music and sound.  They are learning looping, conditional statements, variables, and other coding skills. If you have a desire to expose students to coding, but aren't sure where to start, try Google CS First. They supply all the materials and instructions you need to engage your students in coding activities they will enjoy.

As a standing member on the School Improvement Team, I'm actively involved in big-picture planning and implementation at our school.  My largest role in curriculum development is serving as the chair of the Reading Team. In this capacity, I led a school-wide effort to create an overarching instructional plan for reading. Through this committee we determined best practices and implemented training for our staff. One of our significant accomplishments was to work towards consistency and balance in our school's use of Accelerated Reader (AR). As a result, our staff began to use AR in the manner it was intended - not connected to a punishment or for extrinsic motivation.  We now use AR as a guide for student selection of books that provide intrinsic motivation for successful reading. Through the use of data we pinpoint students' strengths and weaknesses and help students understand how they can improve as readers. Our teachers and students share the common goal of enhanced reading comprehension and enjoyment of reading.

Resource selection is another important part of curriculum development.  I consistently seek input from staff members so I can be purposeful when making purchasing decisions. Some of the ways I do this are through surveys, noting any lack in the collection when requests are made, and hosting book-buying parties. Along with this I'm a strong advocate for maintaining a diverse collection in order to support the curriculum and allow all patrons the ability to access information and form their own opinions.

Have you developed any special programs to involve the community in the media program?

Knowing that students are more successfully when their families and other community members take an active role in their education, I work hard to create events and opportunities for positive experiences for our students and families. Here are a few examples.

Title I Parent Meetings are often hosted in the media center or in coordination with other library events to give parents skills and information to help their students at home.  These meetings are held at different times of the day to accommodate caregivers' schedules.  Refreshments, educational materials, and childcare are provided.  I have also collaborated with classroom teachers to provide training to caregivers about the Parent Portal in Power Schools to enable them to stay informed about their students' attendance and grades.

Bedtime Story Hour is a favorite program for the primary grades students and their families. They wear their pajamas to the library in the evening, bringing their pillows, blankets, and stuffed animals.  Staff members and I read bedtime stories aloud while students and their families listen and enjoy milk and cookies.  It's a wonderful time to make lasting memories and create positive literary experiences.

Some new events I've sponsored this year to get  kids and parents actively engaged in learning together have been Scary Story Hour and Cardboard Maker Morning.

For Scary Story Hour, students and family members wore costumes, took pictures using a green screen, listened to spooky read-alouds, and enjoyed Halloween treats. Our first (but not last!) Maker Morning at the Media Center focused on cardboard construction.  Families were provided with cardboard boxes, Styrofoam, bubble wrap, markers, tape, glue, yarn, and other materials.  They worked together to create an array of projects ranging from a tank to a bird house. Our second Maker Morning gave students and their families the opportunity to make origami ornaments.

Our first annual ARGH! Night was held last year in order to highlight the Encore classes at our school.  This night was a collaborative effort between our school PTA and all of the Encore teachers.  As the hometown of the East Carolina University Pirates, we used a pirate theme by giving families a treasure map of the Encore classes in the school.  Students and their families rotated between the Encore classes, listening to brief presentations about our programs and participating in pirate-themed activities.  I dressed as a pirate and read several humorous pirate picture books, engaging students with a pirate accent. Caregivers could sign up to volunteer in the media center and were given pamphlets highlighting special media activities to be held throughout the year.

My work to involve the families of our students is facilitated through a strong partnership with the PTA.  I serve on the PTA audit committee and attend monthly meetings.  I am an active volunteer in PTA events, including restaurant spirit nights, ice cream socials, and the spring carnival.  I also work collaboratively with PTA and the school administration to determine school technology needs and recommend purchases using PTA funds.

The African American Read-In is a national program to celebrate the contribution Black authors and illustrators have made to our literary experience.  During Black History Month, I create displays of media center books and a short biography of the Black authors and illustrators who created them.  Families are invited to the media center to learn about these authors and illustrators, share their stories, and enjoy refreshments.  One of my goals for this evening event is to decrease the achievement gap in our African American students by inspiring a sense of pride in their culture's literary accomplishments, creating positive educational family experiences, and helping students of color see themselves as potential authors and illustrators.  I also encouraged students’ caregivers to create their own accounts to be able to check out books from the library as well as their students.
Finally, I maintain our school's  web presence through our school website, school photo blog, and my YouTube channel.  I have built our school website several times from scratch as software has changed over the years, and our current site uses Google as a platform.  Our school site has links to teachers and their class sites, curriculum information, cafeteria information, information about special programs and events, the school calendar, uniform policies, EOG resources for parents and students, photo slideshows, media center and OPAC information, and a Symbaloo with helpful links for all school stakeholders.  Catching Up with the Cardinals, our school photo blog, contains pictures of student work, events, and activities so that all stakeholders, near or far, can see the wonderful things happening in our school.  My YouTube channel is very popular with the students and their families, and is a place where I post student projects, lesson videos, training sessions, music programs, spelling bees, graduations, and other events.  This is an easy way for people with connections to our school to view and celebrate our students.


Finally, I maintain our school's  web presence through our school website, school photo blog, and my YouTube channel.  I have built our school website several times from scratch as software has changed over the years, and our current site uses Google as a platform.  Our school site has links to teachers and their class sites, curriculum information, cafeteria information, information about special programs and events, the school calendar, uniform policies, EOG resources for parents and students, photo slideshows, media center and OPAC information, and a Symbaloo with helpful links for all school stakeholders.  Catching Up with the Cardinals, our school photo blog, contains pictures of student work, events, and activities so that all stakeholders, near or far, can see the wonderful things happening in our school.  My YouTube channel is very popular with the students and their families, and is a place where I post student projects, lesson videos, training sessions, music programs, spelling bees, graduations, and other events.  This is an easy way for people with connections to our school to view and celebrate our students.  

 
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