Earlier this week, I shared the most popular posts of 2019, according to statistics, on Fitz Between the Shelves. And while it’s fascinating to see what readers enjoy the most, it’s also surprising to see what makes it to the top of the list; because they’re rarely the moments that I loved the most! So this year, I’m adding an additional recap of my favorite moments from 2019. Here we go!
The 2019 Challenge & 2019 Challenge Celebration
So this one appeared on the Best of 2019 list already, but it’s what happened behind the scenes that really made this moment magic. What I loved most about this challenge was how much our community rallied together – parents emailed me their titles, faculty and staff worked hard to help reach our goal, and the kids read at a fever pitch. In the end, we read 2,060 books in 23 days! I stopped counting after that, because keeping track of it all was exhausting, and I spent the rest of the year cleaning confetti out of the shelves. WORTH IT.
Black History Month
For my first time ever as an educator, I put research, time, and work into bringing Black History Month to my students in a meaningful way. My goal for February was simple: listen, learn, and amplify. Bringing resources and lessons into the library was a great learning experience, and it didn’t always go smoothly; I made lots of mistakes and learned right along with my students. The best parts were the conversations in started with readers and coworkers. I look forward to continuing the work this year.
Family Book Clubs: Out of My Mind, Family Book Night, and Love Sugar Magic
After years of dreaming and scheming, Family Book Club finally became a reality this year. I’m so proud of these events and feel like they are the truest representation of my teaching philosophy and my hopes for my community. I’m incredibly grateful to St. Anne’s-Belfield School for the Academic Leadership Grant that made these events financially possible, and the support and guidance that helped every step of the way. These events certainly have room to grow and improve, but I look back on what we accomplished this year with a lot of pride.
How Can We Level the Playing Field for Children in Charlottesville?
I was lucky enough to be one two faculty mentors for a truly remarkable student-lead course in 2019. It was so powerful to work with Jack as he guided our team in learning more about Charlottesvile, building relationships with non-profit organizations, and doing hands-on work to make our city a better place. This experience made me realize how meaningful and impactful community connections can be in school, and I’m so thankful for it. It lead to so many great moments (Amazing conversations! Learning to use power tools! The best field trip ever!), and lasted long past the our final meeting: Jack wrote a guest post for the blog that mentioned his experience, and he and I even spoke with Kara McClurken of Bennett’s Village about our journey at the Virginia Association of School Librarians Conference in November!
Designing, Building, and Delivering our Little Free Libraries
Okay, so technically this is a part of that last bullet. But come on! This was so cool, it deserved its own photo. This is a link to the article that was published about our work; learn more about the details of the process here.
We Failed. Now What? 10 Steps for Discussing Failure with Kids
I am a semi-professional mistake maker, and I bring that skill with me to work. In other words, I make tons of mistakes in my teaching, coaching, and mentoring, and I encourage my students to do it, too. After one spectacular failure this year, I stopped and really thought about the best way to help children understand their mistakes or failures, and how to help them use that experience to move forward. This post was the result, and I’m so proud of it. (I also love the graphic, which I created from a real photo of students attempting an iPad challenge earlier this year!)
Partnership with Bennett’s Village
One of the most amazing things to come from the Quest mentioned above was our yearlong partnership with Bennett’s Village, a nonprofit organization working to build an inclusive, accessible playground in Charlottesville for all kids to play together. Our year together included many of the moments mentioned in this list – Family Book Club, Leveling the Playing Field Quest, building and delivering our Little Free Libraries, two full-school fundraisers, and more. The experience partnering with Bennett’s Village changed me as an educator, and I think I’ll always remember it as one of the most moving and rewarding moments of my teaching career. Learn more about the overall partnership here.
3D Printed Braille Signage
Thanks to the awesome influence from Bennett’s Village, our community had inclusivity and accessibility on the brain all year. One of the coolest ways this mindset shift manifested itself was in our annual design thinking project, where I invite 4th graders to use the design thinking process to solve a library problem. This particularly empathetic and tenacious group designed, printed, and installed 3D printed Braille signage to make the library a more welcoming place. As a teacher, can you ever ask for anything more than watching your students grow to be kind and empathetic human beings? (As an added bonus, it’s also pretty great to watch them using 3D CAD design software and 3D printers at the age of 10.)
Free Community Programming
This year, I started partnering with local businisses to offer free storytime and literacy-themed events around Charlottesville. My goal was to bring fun, inclusive, and accessible stories and family activities to all Charlottesville families, no matter what school they attend. I’m happy to report that these relationships are still going strong – watch for more events in January 2020 and beyond!
Computer Science Storytime
I brought some serious book nerd vibes to the 2019 CS Institute with my presentation, Computer Science is an Open Book: Increase Equity and Access by Connecting CS to Literacy in the K-4 Classroom, and learned a ton and formed some great partnerships along the way. This presentation went so well, I pitched a similar version to the Mozilla Foundation, and was lucky enough to get to bring it to London for MozFest 2019 in October! I love talking about combining computer science and literacy in the library, and hope to have more opportunities to continue the conversation in 2020.
Whose Computer Science Department Is It, Anyway?
Ms. Wilkens, K-8 Computer Science Coordinator and head of the Computer Science Department, were feeling pretty comfortable our tech-inflused library traditions… so we decided to shake them up a bit. We relinquished control of our two biggest events of the year to a hard-working group of middle schoolers, and the results were incredible. Check out their work throwing our biggest Haunted Library event ever, and the hard work they put into this year’s Tech-Mas celebration. (Fun fact: That giant spider, made from a coffee bag, pool noodles, and felt, now lives on top of the treehouse in the library. She was too beautiful to throw away, so now the story is that she she protects our readers from intruders year-round!)
Great moments that didn’t make it to the blog:
- Embracing my inner PotterHead with a Harry Potter-themed presentation at the VAASL Regional Spring Conference
- Welcoming Jarrett Krosoczka to St. Anne’s-Belfield as the 2019 Virginia Festival of the Book Youth Headliner (more pics here)
- Inviting some real talk about the way kids treat each other – and the adults in their lives – and getting inspired to use social media in a new way, kickstarting conversations and sharing hopes, fears, and most challenging work
- Celebrating being named a finalist for the Charlottesville Business Innovation Council’s Educator of the Year (I didn’t win, but I still had a blast!)
- Cheering for the founders of our Library Intern Program as they graduated to move on to high school (but luckily we still talk every week)
- Reading with cats… a lot
- Starting off fresh in August with some big reading goals – and a very blank wall
- Welcoming and training a huge, lovely, and enthusiastic group of interns for the 2019-2020 school year
- Bringing middle school self checkout back, bigger and better than ever
- Taking computer science storytime to London with Mozilla at 2019 MozFest (and helping spread the message of Tech Girls, too!)
- Nailing Halloween with a little help from a giant cardboard box and author RJ Palacio
- Spreading the reading love to all 50 states with the Global Readaloud Postcard Challenge
- Sharing technology, feminism, art, and some really bad puns at our monthly Tech Girls Party with local nonprofit Computers 4 Kids
- Feeling my foundation shift permanently as I listened and learned at the NAIS People of Color Conference in Seattle, Washington
- Sharing my top reads of 2019