Mark Ray, 2012 Washington State Teacher of the Year
Vancouver Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Steve Webb calls it ‘ubiquitous leadership.’ It’s what happens when educators are given the permission and challenge to lead beyond their traditional roles. At VPS, librarians are extending their expertise to lead strategic work to support student learning. Teacher librarians in VPS have been recognized by Digital Promise and articles in both Education Week and School Administrator for the ways they are innovating.
First, teacher librarians have been on the leading edge of digital citizenship learning for students. Several years ago, they reviewed digital citizenship instruction and resources to inform a district needs assessment. From that work, they curated lessons from Common Sense Media to provide a scope and sequence for library digital citizenship instruction. As Washington State now implements SB 6273, promoting K-12 digital citizenship learning, teacher librarians will necessarily be part of district and building conversations about expanding digital citizenship for students and teachers. VPS teacher librarian Shana Ferguson was part of the OSPI workgroup that helped identify digital citizenship recommendations recently submitted to the Washington Legislature.
Second, teacher librarians are integral to the district’s levy-funded weLearn 1:1 initiative. Beyond providing critical logistical and management support, they have learned and worked alongside teachers to implement the use of iPads and laptops throughout our schools. As part of a team-based approach to professional development and support, teacher librarians work with other district leaders to help students and teachers be successful in their use of technology in the classroom.
Third, teacher librarians are now on the cutting edge of innovation in the district. With a district-wide exploration of coding, making and project-based learning underway, libraries have been identified as testbeds of creativity. Teacher librarians are learning to integrate authentic and engaging learning experiences for our students. They are remaking all or part of their libraries as makerspaces to help inform what hands-on learning might look like in our elementary, middle and high schools. Intrepid teacher librarians are learning coding and robotics as some of the first pioneers who will train, inform and inspire other educators to incorporate these tools into student learning. These explorations will inform district decisions regarding strategic planning, facilities improvements, and instructional design.
While Vancouver’s re-imagination of libraries and teacher librarians has been going on for some time, the U.S Department of Education and the Alliance for Excellent Education recently launched Future Ready Librarians and have identified a Future Ready Librarians Framework which aligns innovative librarian practices with the research-based components of Future Ready schools. This initiative will be featured in 2017 at national conferences including SXSWEdu and and ISTE.
National education leaders, superintendents, state departments of education and district leaders agree: ubiquitous leadership by teacher librarians supports future ready schools. Whether guiding state or district policy, teaching and supporting strategic initiatives, or exploring innovative practices, librarians can and do lead beyond the library.
Mark Ray is the 2012 Washington State Teacher of the Year. He is currently Director of Innovation and Library Services for Vancouver Public Schools and Future Ready Librarians Lead with the Alliance for Excellent Education. See his 2016 TEDx talk, ‘Changing the Conversation About Librarians.’ Follow him on Twitter @_teacherx and on his blog Amalgamated Futures.
Amy Abrams, Kent