Monday, January 27, 2014

Up Next for IASL Vice President Dixie Forcht

Thanks to Diane Brown who conducted the interview! Jean Donham chimed in to give her point of view based on Dixie's responses to the questions.

Tell us who you are (e.g. previous position(s)/careers, professional experience, service, education).

Originally from Texas, I was a speech and debate coach for the first 12 years of my teaching career, traveling with nationally competitive students in forensics. I have a BS and MS in Communication Studies from the University of North Texas, and I have a lot of service to the forensic community both at the state and national levels. 

After moving to Iowa to coach for West Des Moines, I met my husband and ended up in central Iowa. I received on the job training in School Library Studies as the PK-12 Teacher Librarian for East Marshall Community Schools while earning a Masters at UNI. After completing my MAE, I went on to get my PK-12 Administrative Certificate and a K-12 TAG endorsement, also from UNI. 

Jean Donham: This list of rapid-fire accomplishments is evidence of the energy level that Dixie bring to IASL. I am convinced that this woman never sleeps!

In one or two sentences, tell us what your current professional position.

I am now the MS/HS Teacher Librarian for South Tama County CSD and working on my PhD in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at the University of Iowa. I serve as a technology integrationist, manage two libraries, and teach 21st Century Technology at the MS.

Jean Donham: Two important skills sets are really important and leadership. As a profession, we need to get that message out to all educators that these are skill sets of teacher librarians...and further as an association, we need to nurture and build these skills in all our TL colleagues. Every one of us must be strong. I read recently that Kelly Gallagher (national guru about literacy) has little to say about school libraries or school librarians--while he extolls the value of classroom libraries--because of his own unfortunate experience with a school librarian when he was a classroom teacher. Every one of us must project (and have) a high level of competence. You never know what greater influence you can have!

What are your top three responsibilities or goals?

1. Convince teachers to collaborate with me for projects and research.
2. Convince students to utilize a variety of resources (including books) when doing research, other than just browsing.
3. Learn more so I can share more.

Jean Donham: Number 3: Learn more...Yep! This is a profession of learners for learners.

How do you set priorities, especially if assigned to multiple buildings?   

I keep a lot of lists! I try to think about what's urgent, what's required, what's needed, and what's a waste of my time. Then, I focus on the urgent and required, and then get to the needed as soon as I can. Of course, needs vary from building to building, so it's an ongoing process.
Who is your biggest supporter and why?

My husband, Craig, is my greatest supporter. He encouraged me to go back to school, and supports my efforts. He is my rock.

How do you stay current (in technology, literature, instruction, pop culture, etc.)?
The SLIK-12 is a primary resource, along with my fellow TLs at AEA267. I also subscribe to LMC, SLJ, and other journals to stay on top of the changes in our field. I am also a gadget geek and addicted to
Jean Donham: While we can all pick up ideas from SLIK-12, we indeed need to extend beyond Iowa to see what is happening in the professional journals like LMC and SLJ and SLM (School Library Monthly) as well as KQ (Knowledge Quest) and TL (Teacher Librarian) help us all stretch, reflect, and experiment!

Where do you see the position of teacher librarians making an impact in schools?

I think our important work varies based on the stakeholders. With students, we need to be friendly, open, and responsive to their needs. With teachers, the same, but also work with them in collegial ways, such as coming to their grade level or subject area PLCs and serving them for professional learning. At the district/administrative level, it is essential that we make our value known to the administrators, and participate in a variety of committees that may impact the libraries.

How do you know if you have made progress?

If my calendar is full of bookings with teachers and I'm busy all the time, I'm doing something right!

What are the most challenging parts of your job?

Trying to be everywhere at once. If I had a choice, I would not split my day between the HS and MS, but rather do a full day on one campus or the other. Since I have actual classes to teach every afternoon, my ability to work with teachers and classes in the afternoons on either campus is limited without getting a substitute. 

What’s the best (or worst) part about working with young people?

I love it when the light comes on and I can see comprehension or understanding radiating from within a student who has just discovered something. That 'a-ha!' moment is priceless.

What advice do you have for current and future librarians?

Unless we can get the law changed in Iowa regarding the assignment of certified TLs to Iowa schools, we need to prepare for continued consolidation of positions. We need to demonstrate our value and get our administrators to also support us.

Jean Donham: Legal mandates can only do so much...our colleagues in administration and in classrooms have to come to believe that they cannot succeed without us. We have to deliver...the Common Core is opening the door for us...we need to make our skills and knowledge known!

What is a cause or issue that is important to you in librarianship?

Besides defending the budgets for libraries and fighting to keep actual books in the library (in addition to e-books), I think that our biggest battle is the issue of staffing libraries with certified TLs. 

Who is your mentor and why? How did you meet this person?
Dr. Jean Donham is my mentor. When I was hired to be the TL at East Marshall, I went online and ordered some books so I could read about what I was supposed to do in my new job. (Classes didn't begin until the fall semester, so I had a summer of reading.) One of the books I bought was Enhancing Teaching and Learning and I was so glad to have a book with realistic advice. Then, I walked into a class at UNI and there she was! She is brilliant, pragmatic, and a fount of knowledge. She also encouraged me to go on to pursue the PhD and to consider service to IASL.

How do you respond when someone says”All you do is check in/out books and shelve them.”
My response: "Actually, that's my associate's job. But if you would like to do my job for a day, I will gladly do yours. Here's the list of what needs to get done. And don't forget, you have to be at the Middle School by 12:30 and you have meetings before and after school. I can't wait to teach quadratic equations!"

Jean Donham: :-)

What fictional character would you most like to be for a day?

If I could be any fictional character for a day, I would be Katniss Everdeen. Very few books have grabbed me and held on like The Hunger Games series. Plus, the girl's got skills!

Jean Donham: I can see this...Dixie has just that much fortitude! Best to her in her IASL leadership role!

Link to Dixie's library website