June 22, 2017

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This Indiana Teacher of the Year Is a Librarian

Typically, the teacher of the year winner is someone who works in the classroom, either running a biology lab or perhaps explaining algebra equations. But this year, the Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) changed things up and honored a librarian. Meet the winner: Kathleen Rauth, a media specialist who teaches lower and middle schoolers in the International Baccalaureate program at two IPS schools, Center for Inquiry 2 and Center for Inquiry 27.

Rauth’s days are packed: she instructs each grade weekly, oversees the collection development and purchasing for both schools, and is responsible for assisting teachers in finding materials, digital and print, to enhance and expand their units. Add to this a long and distinguished career that spans three decades at several schools in Illinois and California and you can see why this particular librarian was nominated—and won.

Lewis Ferebee, IPS superintendent, feels a kinship toward Rauth as he’s the son of a former media specialist. But, he notes, it’s her dedication to her student’s success that brought her this honor. “Ms. Rauth’s strong commitment to providing cultural diversity through her students’ literacy options is one of the many reasons we’re proud to recognize her as our district’s top teacher,” he says. Rauth was deeply touched that this particular part of her work was noticed. “I’m honored that my district has recognized the work librarians are doing with culturally relevant teaching and the importance of diverse narratives,” she says.

Rauth was put up by her colleagues at Center for Inquiry 27, and joined a group of 49 other IPS teachers. Nominees were required to craft a multipage document describing their accomplishments. “Writing the essays for the award’s portfolio was an interesting experience, as it allowed me to reflect on my career as an educator and the values that are at the foundation of my librarianship,” she explains. According to the IPS Teacher of Year application guidelines, portfolios were judged upon their ability to show concern for individual students and inspire exceptional learning. Working effectively with groups, staying knowledgeable of current and trending educational theories, and showing examples of innovative instructional practices were also taken into account.

Rauth says she looked on the application and portfolio process as an opportunity to more clearly define the role of story in the global community, and specifically on the importance of helping students navigate a changing society. In her daily work, she strives to match the right books with her students, based on their background and personal experiences. Whether this means stories about African Americans, Latinos, or kids who have same sex parents, she works hard to create a collection of books that speaks to every student.

As far as Rauth is aware, she’s the first media specialist to receive this honor at IPS, which may be due, in part, to the fact that many school librarians are spread thinly between their buildings. “They don’t always have the time or opportunity to build deep connections with the children and teachers they serve,” she points out. Rauth feels fortunate to have collaborated with library colleagues of the highest caliber.

“I benefit immensely from a professional network of professors, writers, and coworkers dedicated to raising the art of librarianship to its highest form,” she relates. Rauth is hoping to share the important work that librarians do throughout her district and highlight the local, state, and national initiatives that deepen cultural understanding and empathy. “Librarians know the power of their work, the importance that a single book can play in the life of a reader, so I hope this award will give me a platform to celebrate the critical need for school librarians in every community and underscore their role in shaping 21st-century learners.”

Rauth was feted with a huge celebration on the day she was selected, complete with flowers, balloons, camera and media crews, and the entire school in the gymnasium to cheer her on. “They also invited my family to attend so they could be part of the celebration,” she recalls. She’s still reeling from the honor and the frenzy that accompanies the end of the school year. “I had to close out two libraries and wrap up everything with my 800 students—today is only the second day of vacation!”


Jennifer Kelly Geddes is a Manhattan-based reporter who writes for Parents.com and Modern Farmer

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