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Saturday, November 1, 2014

College Application Party!

It's my first year at my new school and my first time ever working with middle and high school students. In the library, I have inherited what I call "frequent flyers", a group of students that prefer the quiet of the library or work on a laptop in the morning or at lunch.

After getting to know some of these kids, I learned that they didn't really have an exit strategy for when they graduated. I wanted to do something to help change that.

Now in our community like many others, poverty and unemployment are high confounded with a growing drug problem. Many of our kids come from unstable or unsupportive homes and employment opportunities in our area are scarce. The "future" for many of these kids is next week or next month. Without a good start, many of these children may have long-term futures that are lacking in opportunity. A small percentage of our graduates go straight to a four year college and an even smaller number go to the local community college (20+ miles away). Getting to the community college several times a week is expensive because there is no public transportation and reliable cars need gas and insurance, so many don't finish a 2 year program. A larger number of graduates stay at home waiting for something to happen or fight over one of the few low paying jobs in this town of 1500 people.

 After an almost sleepless weekend and several hours on my laptop, I came up with a borrowed idea for a College Application Party. 

I discussed this the school counselors and they agreed to help me. We made posters, put the event on the announcements and recruited students in senior level classes. We planned the event on a teacher work day when the kids were out of school so we had several hours to work with them without taking away from class time.

I contacted a few of my friends from a few universities across the state and the local community college and they sent me some "swag" which consisted of a few t-tshirts, pencils, pennants, notebooks, etc.  We made some goodie bags with pencils, bookmarks, flyers, and made a few door prize bundles with the loot.  A local sandwich shop donated a tray of cookies, the grocery store donated balloons and the administration sprung for the pizza.

We had what we thought was a decent number turnout for the first time.  We had 15 come on a school holiday (less than 100 in the class) and we lured them in with pizza and application waivers.  There were 3 of us on hand to help where we could, provide support and encouragement and answer questions.

The kids seemed to have a good time, most stayed the whole three hours!  

To follow up, we plan to promote College Application Week November 10-14.  That week, students across North Carolina can submit free applications to dozens of participating colleges.  

In the process of asking for donations, one college offered to come out at a later date to talk with students about the financial aid process.  We plan to have a date for that in January or February when students can begin applying for money for college.  

The whole event required little effort but hopefully will make an impact with students.  Many parents and students expressed that would like to see this become an annual event.  

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Why I love NCSLMA...

Here I am the morning of the last day of the North Carolina School Library Media Association (NCSLMA) Conference reflecting on HOW MUCH FUN I have had and how much I've learned!

I was so lucky to have been named an Emerging Leader last year and through that program is how I met Christine Tuttell and Jen Baker, 2 of my favorite school librarians.  We were invited to a special dinner on Wednesday night to meet members of the NCSLMA board:

At this dinner, we were able to get to know some of the leading librarians in North Carolina that have been long supporters of the organization and advocates of school librarianship.  I was so honored to be in the company of such dedicated educators.

Leading from the Library:
All the next day the cohort of Emerging Leaders was given a special pre-conference session led by Jennifer Lagarde (a.k.a. Library Girl) and April Dawkins, past president of NCSLMA and current library science doctoral student at the University of South Carolina. At the end of the day, there was a panel led discussion of past presidents of NCSLMA.

After the pre conference, my roommate Lisa Milstead and I worked the registration table at the vendor fair.  Lisa is one of our #nctlchat hosts and she had these awesome hats made for us!  

Later Thursday night our twitter chat group #nctlchat hosted a meet up at 6th and Vine. 

It was up early again on Friday volunteering again with the registration followed by the keynote address with the renowned Shannon Miller.  Topic?  Be the change.  Shannon talked about redesigning your space, social media, connecting with students, global connections and makerspaces.

Following, there were a number of wonderful session all day long.  First I attended a session by my friend Bitsy Griffin, a twitter friend whom I was able to finally meet in person.  The topic was "So this is the library I have to work with?"  She did a wonderful job presenting about how to update an out-dated library.  

Next was "Every Source Tells a Story:  Family History Research", a wonderful presentation about students researching their own family histories.  On hand were past #nctlchat guests Kimberly Hirsch from LearnNC,  Kristen Ziller, Kendra Allen.  

During lunch, we were treated to a wonderful keynote with children's author Toni Buzzeo.  

After lunch, I attended Lorie Steed's presentation about collaborating with the public library.  Lorie has had a very successful partnership over the past 6 years including monthly visits to her high school from the local public library book mobile.  

The next session I was an author helper and I was honored to introduce NC YA author Nathan Kotecki, author of the Suburban Strange and Pull Down the Night.   His talk was so riveting that I can't wait to read his books!

One of my favorites at NCSLMA every year is Heather Moorefield-Lang, committee member for AASL and the top 25 websites for teaching and learning.  There were a few websites that I've used, but many new ones I can't wait to try.  

Finally, I presented about Twitter as PD and #nctlchat with my good friends Chris, Jen and Lisa.  It was the late, late show at 4:30 but well attended with 25+ people.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Choose #edcamp!

What is #edcamp?  

Edcamp is a concept thought up by a group of educators from Pennsylvania.  Edcamps are conferences put on by educators for educators.  Participants create their own agendas.  The term often used is "un-conference".

What makes #edcamp different from regular conferences?

  • edcamps are centered around attendees
  • edcamps are driven by digital media
  • edcamps are attended by passionate, dedicated professionals that WANT to be there
  • edcamps are FREE
  • edamps are AdDiCtIvE!
Why should I attend an #edcamp?
  • to connect with connected educators
  • to share great ideas
  • to ignite a new passion 
  • it's free
  • you will get fed
  • why NOT?
How can I find an #edcamp?

Sooner or later, there will be an edcamp coming near you.  Check this out:  

Seriously, from Austin to Vermont and Hong Kong to Dubai..... #edcamps are everywhere.  


Saturday, September 13, 2014

S'mores: newsletters, flyers and more

Sometime last school year I learned about   I was in a google hangout with a couple other  TL's and one shared her S'more detailing whatever we were talking about.  As soon as we hung up, I logged on to find out what it was all about.  A few minutes later, I have my first S'more published!

After recently finishing up my spring book fair, I decided to create this:

Not only was I able to embed the S'more into my website, but I could share it by email, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+.  Not only was it easy to share, but S'more gives you feedback by showing detailed analytics.  This particular smore was seen by  10... TEN different countries?!?!  How AWESOME is THAT?

Well, after that first one I was hooked.  I did a few more and learned that you are allowed 5 free S'mores.  Not willing to give up this awesome service, I opted to sign for the premium educator account.  Now, this is nothing I take lightly...  I mean on my budget?  Any time I spend more than $10 on ANYTHING I hesitate.  But this is one of the digital tools that I found so useful I couldn't pass it up.  So I signed up for the $59 annual premium account.

So that is why I'm here to spread the word today.  S'more is reducing the price to only $39 for educators for a few weeks only.  It will be the best 40 bucks you spend all year.

Educators, sign up for S'more account at


Sunday, July 20, 2014

Summer Retreat for Educators: Primary Sources Summer Institute @ Mars Hill University

Now this is the best kept secret for educators in North Carolina... I know other states offer similar programs (courtesy of the Library of Congress) but why everybody isn't going I have no idea....

Last year I had so much fun at the Primary Sources Summer Institute at Mars Hill that I signed up this year for level II.

This week is like a summer camp for educators (and in this case, librarians but all educators are welcome).  The daily schedule runs from 9:00 - 3:30, ending at 1:00 on Friday.   There is no cost to the program (grant funded by the Library of Congress) and there is housing available on campus for a very minimal fee.  A light breakfast and full lunch courtesy of the Pittman Dining Hall is available, but dinner is on your own.  Downtown Asheville is about 20 minutes away with tons of restaurants, shopping and entertainment.  I lived large this week and still didn't break my wallet.  But back to the topic at hand....

The first year of the program, we dove deep into the digital resources that the LOC had to offer. We learned how to access and evaluate primary sources as well as integrate them into our lesson plans using common core standards.  By the end of the week, we had to submit our own lesson plan using primary sources that we could execute the following year.  I didn't use my full blown lesson plan on the Dust Bowl, but I did successfully use primary sources (mostly with 5th grade) and they LOVED it.  We used primary sources from Colonial America, the Revolutionary War and the Civil War to align with what they were studying in class.

The first year was great, very useful and fun.  So I signed up for year 2 without any hesitation.  This year's topic?  Appalachian Studies.  And not only did we use digital resources, but we were able to put our hand on the real thing in the Ramsey Center in Renfro Library.

Missy, pouring over a collection of Appalachian newspapers.  

On Tuesday, we were given a private concert by Joe Penland.  This was a real treat.  We learned about the history of English Ballads in Appalachia, the music of Sodom Laurel and the story of Cecil Sharp who saw the beauty and value in the music and worked to preserve it. 

Joe Penland

We also walked over to the revived Rural Life Museum  on campus and given a private tour by the museum's curator, Les Reker.  The current exhibition was "Interwoven:  Coverlets, Ballads and America's Discovery of Madison County Folklife".  
Rural Life Museum at Mars Hill University.

Les Rekker, Museum Curator

We were even able to go on a farm tour of Lori's place.  Lori raises sheep, goats and rabbits for their fur.  She spins and knits.  She also raises vegetables and sells at the local farmers markets.  Lori treated us to some homemade peach tea and zucchini bread.  

Lori (red shirt on left) fielding questions while we enjoy a homemade treat.  
Dr. Karen Paar, Director of the Ramsey Center and Archivist for the Southern Appalachian Archives

At the culmination of the week, we had to present our lesson plans that we had worked on all week.  There were so many interesting things to choose from that it was sometimes difficult to choose.  But all in all, everyone came away with some new tools and ideas to implement for next year.
Brenda presenting her project using oral histories.

And our fearless leader, Anne Marie Walter with Dr. Karen Paar looking on.  

Although the week was chock full of resources and ideas, it was not "all work and no play".  We did break away each evening to get a little dinner, do some shopping and some sightseeing.  It was so nice to relax and connect with other like minded educators.  

If you are in North Carolina and you are interested in attending one of Anne Marie's summer institutes next year, be sure to contact her:  If you aren't in North Carolina, and want to look for a TPS partner near you, check out  

Well, in closing I want to say thank you so much to our hosts, Anne Marie Walter and Karen Paar.  I also want to say thank you to Brenda, Missy, Jennifer and Marty for begin my in-house PLC.  I hope to see you next year at level III!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

REWIND: NC Cultural Enrichment Day (March 5, 2014)

At our school, we have an enrichment team that serves students in rotation once a week.  On the scheduled day, students in grades 1-5 rotate through media, art, music and P.E.  We often ate lunch together and got talking one day about putting together something cool and different during our rotation.  Because 4th grade studies everything North Carolina, we thought it would be interesting to integrate this into our enrichment rotation.  Knowing that teachers and administration would be more likely to accept the idea if it didn't mess up everybody's schedule, we decided to come up with an all day event for 4th and 5th graders during our normal enrichment schedule.  We called this event the NC Cultural Enrichment Day.  see the flier HERE

With a little bit of planning (we started in September) we researched some potential guests, came up with a projected cost and asked PTO for help (they were delighted to help).

In Media, I was lucky enough to get  Nora Dial-Stanley, a member of the North Carolina Lumbee tribe and storyteller.  She was WONDERFUL!  She had such a melodious voice and charmed the children with her amazing stories.  Nora has a true gift.  She had no script; she just spoke from her heart.  And in each class she was able to convey in an age appropriate manner the injustices that her people have suffered.  She was highly engaging and the students LOVED her.


In P.E., Linda Zarick was grateful to have world class clogger Elliot Skeen and his daughter Megan.  Elliot has not only been clogging almost all of his life, he has been instructor and coach to multiple teams over the years.  He even met his beautiful wife, Cheryl, at a clogging event many years ago and they have danced together for more than 20 years since then.  Elliot talked with the kids about some traditional Appalachian dancing and even had the kids do some basic square dancing steps.

In music, Seth McKnight was delighted to be able to share the talents of Rebecca Branson Jones with his students.  Ms. Jones is an accomplished musician, photographer, and documentary filmmaker among other things.  Rebecca has most recently been teaching at ASU in Boone, completed an internship with world renowned producer Ken Burns, and travels with her music group The Buck Stops Here when time allows.   Rebecca demonstrated some traditional Appalachian musical instruments as well as leading the students in song.  

Finally, in art, Brandy Mulkey kicked off a month long unit on NC traditional crafts by teaching 4th grade the fine art of basket weaving and 5th grade the centuries old tradition of pottery by creating small face jugs.  Students loved begin able to get their hands dirty.  At the end of the unit, students were able to bring home their designs just in time for mother's day.

Because we had brought in special guests, we put on a luncheon in the media center for all those that participated.  We invited administrators, PTO and the local newspaper to join us.  We feasted on chicken pie, green beans, applesauce, banana pudding and sweet tea.  The event was such a success that we hope to make it an annual one.  We also spoke with Mrs. Dial-Stanley about doing a similar event in November for Native American History Month.

Read the article by Daneesha Edwards here: 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

A rolling stone gathers no moss...

School library is a K-12 certification, in the 8 years I've been teaching I've only ever worked with elementary school.  Well, beginning next school year that is going to change.  I've moving schools and will be the new media coordinator (teacher librarian...whatever you call it) at South Davidson Middle AND High School.

This is totally new territory for me but I am excited about the change and eager to flex my library muscles and see what I'm made of.  This new opportunity is 2 schools sharing one library, but there are only about 750 students total in both schools.  It's rural and high poverty, but there are not one but TWO full times staffs for the media center (1 tech and 1 media assistant for each school)....the largest media/tech staff in the county.

So...change is good.  But often bittersweet.  You see, I will be leaving my friends...

LOVE me some Penny and Karen!  

I had no intention of leaving after only 2 years, but the opportunity presented itself and I couldn't pass it up.  The outgoing MC is retiring after 29 years and decided I couldn't wait another 29.  PLUS it's only one mile from my house.  This is a community in which I've lived for 9 years, and after the tens of thousands of miles I've commuted to work since moving to NC, this will be a nice change.  

So, sad to leave elementary and the little ones but eager to spread my wings.  On that note, I leave you with this...