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Showing Future Educators the LMS Career Path

After speaking with an elementary library media specialist, NJ Teacher of the Year Jennifer Skomial will now show high school students the possibilities of a career in a school library.

Jennifer Skomial went for a conversation about teachers collaborating with school librarians and left with an addition to her curriculum.

The 2018-19 New Jersey Teacher of the Year oversees Morris County School of Technology's Academy for Education and Learning in Morris County, NJ, where she is responsible for teaching high schoolers interested in careers in education, including the roles of teacher, child psychologist, social worker, and guidance counselor. 

In May, she sat down for a discussion with Patty Huizing, a nearby elementary school library media specialist, and realized she has neglected the role of library media specialist when offering students future options to consider.

“I thought ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve never exposed students to this career path,’” says Skomial.

That will change. As Teacher of the Year, Skomial gets a six-month sabbatical to tour the state, speak to other educators and work with the department of education. When she returns to school in the fall, she plans to bring her students to the elementary school library where Huizing works and introduce them to the multi-faceted job of library media specialist.

She considered bringing Huizing in as a speaker but decided she wants her freshman to go to Lakeview Elementary School and "observe her in action" as Skomial did. It was storytime like Skomial had never seen, she says. And she hopes Huizing's personal career path will offer the aspiring educators a lesson in being more open to opportunities that arise.

Skomial has always arranged speakers and field trips to help students get a better idea of the real-world job they think they want. The decision of who to bring in or visit is typically made based on discussions with the kids about their interests or personal connections—someone’s aunt was a social worker, or, perhaps they had been impacted by someone in their lives such as a speech therapist, etc.

While her students work on storytime plans, and she often directs them to the public library for book selection and assistance, adding the profession to her curriculum had never occurred to her. Now she sees it as something many of her students, especially the avid readers, would enjoy. It's also a choice that offers collaboration with other educators and disciplines, technology engagement, and one-on-one time with students. 

A career in the school library will definitely be a new idea for students, she says. Not only have they not mentioned librarian when discussing career choices, they don't use the library as a resource, or know what to do when directed there.

“I’m surprised,” she says. “They don’t have library skills.”

When trying to find books for storytime, students often tell her they have asked their parents for help or gone online to search for and purchase a title. Those she convinces to visit the public library must be walked through the process, but end up very excited once they speak to a helpful librarian, she says.

Meeting Huizing and filling in a curricular hole she didn't realize existed is just one of the unexpected results of her teacher of the year status. Another, she hopes, is the platform and ability to build a professional network for teachers educating future educators. While many educators across the country have active professional networks, Skomial is struggling to find a group for her specific needs. She'd like to connect with educators in NJ and across the country to share resources, programs, and ideas with those who are teaching and training the next generation of educators. 

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Kara Yorio

Kara Yorio (kyorio@mediasourceinc.com, @karayorio) is news editor at School Library Journal.

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