April 25, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

The Faces of Leadership | Editorial

Here you’ll find a snapshot of what leadership in school libraries looks like. Among the five individuals cited in this year’s competition for our School Librarian of the Year award—with thanks for the support of sponsor Scholastic Library Publishing—there is much to be celebrated. The 2017 honorees illustrate today’s state-of-the-art approach to the work, and point the way forward for anyone who wants to make a positive impact on kids’ lives and learning.

I am so excited for the 616 children at the Ed White E-STEM Magnet School in El Lago, TX. In Tamiko Brown, SLJ’s 2017 School Librarian of the Year “Rising Star” they have a guide to learning who is inspirational, collaborative, creative, and tireless. She has transformed the library space to fully embrace the school’s STEM focus—an alignment in goals that won the praise of Ed White’s principal Matthew Paulson and ensures her program’s relevance for teachers and students alike. She further innovated by bringing STEM learning to classrooms with mobile maker space carts, and enabled kids to stay engaged with kits to take home.

Brown brings the full package, having fostered a learning hub for the school, which is tightly tied to curricular goals, while keeping an eye on the whole child, with initiatives to engage key adults around them. Her space is already humming, and with the passage of a $487 million school bond, there’s a new library on the horizon. Brown’s vision, no doubt, will make a lasting mark.

And she is just one of the faces of leadership we are celebrating with this award. As we headed into 2017, the award’s fourth year, SLJ executive editor Kathy Ishizuka innovated as well. Every year, we have been amazed and impressed by the quality and volume of the competition. This time, she explored ways to make the annual prize process even more impactful by highlighting more individuals.

Enter SLJ’s 2017 School Librarian Heroes. The tag “Finalist” doesn’t begin to signal the excellence throughout the nominations we received, and, ultimately it falls short of celebrating those named. Instead, we decided to call them what they are: heroes.

From left: Alisha Wilson, April Wathen, Liz Phipps Soeiro, Jan Wilson

Alisha Wilson, our Maker Hero, transitioned from a position teaching language arts to the library at Booker T. Washington High School in Pensacola, FL, in 2015 and turned it into an Innovation Center for creating. Hero of Equitable Access April Wathen is a teacher librarian at George Washington Carver Elementary School in Lexington Park, MD. She strives to build self-confidence in her kids in this Title I school, along with a plethora of academic skills.

A grants wizard, Wathen brought in more than $18,000 in funding to her campus. Meanwhile, at the Cambridgeport School in Cambridge, MA, Liz Phipps Soeiro, SLJ’s Hero of Family Outreach, carries her whole-family approach to service well beyond school hours. With her summer book bike program, Phipps Soeiro delivers on the literacy mission when school is out. Jan Wilson, our Hero of Collaboration, claims not to have “done anything on [her] own,” she says—and that’s a good thing. Her efforts at Brookwood High School in Snellville, GA, make an impact because of effective partnerships.

These are the faces of leadership. They epitomize the great work being done across the field in schools large and small. We celebrate them, learn from them, and aspire to be more like them every day.


Rebecca T. Miller




This article was published in School Library Journal's September 2017 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Rebecca T. Miller About Rebecca T. Miller

Rebecca T. Miller (rmiller@mediasourceinc.com) is Editorial Director, Library Journal and School Library Journal.

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