School Library Journal has revealed the winner of the first School Librarian of the Year Award. Library media specialist Michelle Colte of Hale Kula Elementary School in Wahiawa, Hawaii, snagged top honors for her “innovative use of technology and exceptional community engagement,” according to the announcement made today.
Sponsored by Scholastic Library Publishing, the award recognizes K–12 school library professionals for their achievement in using 21st-century tools and services to foster multiple literacies in their students. Colte and two finalists—Andy Plemmons of David C. Barrow Elementary School in Athens, Georgia, and Colleen Graves of Lamar Middle School in Flower Mound, Texas—are featured in the September 2014 issue of SLJ.
“I am honored to be named School Library Journal School Librarian of the Year, “ says Colte, “and I hope that my passion for learning will inspire others in my field to push themselves, their fellow educators, and students in their schools creatively.”
Colte will receive a $2,500 cash award and $2,500 worth of materials of her choosing from Scholastic Library Publishing. Plemmons and Graves will each receive $500 in Scholastic materials of their choice.
A Wisconsin native, Colte has been a library media specialist at Hale Kula for the past nine years. While she is recognized for her achievement in using technology to enhance instruction, Colte wasn’t always so tech savvy. She had to overcome her “natural shyness” and reach out to other educators through Twitter, Google Plus, and educator blogs, she says.
In December 2013, Colte organized “The Hour of Code,” a global event in which every student at her elementary school participated in an hour-long introduction to computer coding. For that effort, the school received a $10,000 grant from educational nonprofit Code.org, which Colte used to buy Chromebooks and tablets for the library.
Colte also worked to understand her school’s fluctuating population—which largely serves children from military families. With this in mind, she maintains the library website to keep deployed parents (and caregivers) informed of their kids’ activities and assignments and regularly coordinates school events to bring students, staff, and parents together to provide a sense of “ohana”—or family.
“I believe that being a librarian is about so much more than providing access to information and promoting literacy,” says Colte. “It’s about helping people make connections and share knowledge within the community and beyond.”
Finalist Plemmons, who is in his seventh year at Barrow Elementary, lives by the motto “expect the miraculous,” borrowed from the Newbery Medal–winning book Flora and Ulysses (Candlewick, 2013) by Kate DiCamillo. He focuses on empowering students to experiment with new technologies, including a MakerBot 3-D printer, which Plemmons acquired for the library through a MakerBot grant.
“My goal is to create a library program where students are empowered to dream, tinker, create, and share as global thinkers and collaborators,” says the Georgia native.
Graves, a teacher librarian at Lamar Middle School, started out as an English teacher and made the switch five years ago. She runs “Maker Monday Workshops” at her school, where she “teaches coding and how to develop games using MIT’s Scratch program,” she says. Graves also organizes “lunch and learn” sessions where students and staff discover, skill build, and play using programs such as GarageBand.
“I’m so honored to be a finalist with my teacher librarian peers, Andy Plemmons and winner Michelle Colte,” Graves tells SLJ. “They are doing such amazing things in their libraries, and it means a lot to have my name next to theirs.”
A panel of school librarians, SLJ editors, and other industry professionals from Scholastic and the International Society for Technology in Education determined the winners of the award. All nominations were judged based on several criteria, including creativity in programming, exemplary use of technology, and integration of library resources with curricula.