Monday, February 24, 2014

Chelsea Sims our advocate extraordinaire...acting on our behalf to promote school libraries

-Interview by Diane Brown

I graduated from Cornell College in 2006 with a BA in English and Secondary Education. After a year of substitute teaching in the Iowa City/Cedar Rapids area, I attended the UNI Overseas Job fair and got a job teaching 9th and 10th grade English Language Arts at a bilingual private school in Manizales, Colombia.  The experience was interesting and the country was beautiful, but the position was not a great fit.  Upon returning to Iowa, I taught Creative Writing part time at Clear Creek Amana High School and substitute taught for another year.  Still not feeling in love with being an English teacher, I got the idea from a fellow teacher to look into becoming a Teacher Librarian. I started looking into graduate programs right away, got in touch with Jean Donham, who had been my librarian at Cornell, and she helped me weigh the differences between the two programs in Iowa. My connection with Jean and the structure of the program at UNI made my decision to apply fairly easy.  I applied right under the wire for the upcoming cohort, and began my program that summer.  Just two months into this new world, I applied for a half-time opening at Hills Elementary in the Iowa City school district.  Although elementary was completely out of my comfort zone and I had only my intro course under my belt, I was offered the job and have been here since! This is my fourth year as the TL at Hills, and last year, I was offered another half-time TL position at South East Junior High.  So for two years I have spent my mornings with elementary students, and my afternoons with 7th and 8th graders!

I love being a Teacher Librarian.  I love that I get to interact with students of all ages (adults, too!) about things that excite them – great books, interesting questions, new discoveries and useful tools. My favorite moment with any student is seeing when they get to that “aha!” – whether during the research process, after finally mastering a skill, or when finding the book that lights up their eyes.

I also love sharing what Teacher Librarians do.  My colleagues in my district and around the state do amazing things for their students and staff. Too many people are unaware of what a 21st Century Teacher Librarian can offer to her community, so I make an effort to share what happens at my two libraries every month via newsletter and with occasional updates on Twitter. The newsletter (here and here) takes about a half hour each month to write. Snapping a quick photo and uploading on Twitter takes about 5 minutes. The benefits are more than worth the time commitment.

I have a love/hate relationship with the stereotype of the librarian. Yes, she is a master of organization and can rock a bun and cardigan, but we are so much more than that. We are not locked to our desks with a date-due stamp in one hand and finger pressed to our lips at the slightest noise. We are all over the school, making noise while teaching skills vital to students’ real lives, developing students into effective problem-solvers, and spreading the joy of reading for fun and reading to learn.

Find me on Twitter @MsSimsICCSD
Find South East Junior High Library on Twitter @SEJHLibrary

Chelsea is pictured second on the left.