On October 6, 2016, I traveled to Portsmouth to visit school librarian, Sheree Barnett, at West Portsmouth Middle School. With over 400 students in the building, WPMS is part of the Washington Niles Local School District (https://www.westsenators.org/).
As I enter the building, Sheree greets me at the entrance. I sign in and we are off to the media center. The media center, surrounded by windows, sits to the right of the school entrance. With its high ceilings and moveable tables and chairs, it is a welcoming space for students and teachers. Sheree, recipient of the Dan MacLachan School Library Media Award (2015) from Kent State University SLIS, is eager to show me the live news studio situated in the media center. As we walk back to the studio, Sheree explains that creating the live news program has been one of the most rewarding time, thus far, in her career. The live news program airs each morning and “learning the ‘how to,’ teaching my students the proper way to run a mixing board, cameras, sound equipment, and being able to broadcast the news program live to our building each morning has been an exciting adventure. One I look forward to each day.”
After a visit to the studio, Sheree introduces me to three of her “News Crew” students. Maddy “appreciates books, news casting, and loves being on camera as an anchor.” Kyle “works the camera and sound.” Aiden anchors the news and describes how Mrs. Barnett has “taught us so many things – camera adjustments, sound for the theme, mics, and volume.” He explains how they alternate positions so they get to know what each does. Beyond being the “News Crew” students, they each work in the media center. Maddy is quick to answer my question as to why the library is so important – “you learn about things you didn’t know and gain new knowledge.” Maddy cites “increasing knowledge of online safety and protecting ourselves while online” as one of the most important lessons she has learned this year.
As we continue to discuss the “News” studio, Sheree explains that last spring, she and Principal Jordan took seven students to Ohio University to meet with Don Moore, Director of Electronic Media. Students were given a behind the scenes tour of the program created by Mr. Moore which included a newsroom, sound room, production room, and a museum dedicated to David E. Carter. Mr. Moore gave each of the students’ the books “ You Can Get There from Here” by Don Moore and “Friends We All Grew Up With” a story about the “A 50-year history of WSAZ Television” by London Books, Ltd.. The students also had the opportunity to tour WSAZ that day as well. Sheree beams when she describes her pride in what the students have accomplished.
The colorful boxes that line one side of the media center are book kits for the teachers. As a public librarian in her “past life,” Sheree adapted her practice to WPMS by creating book kits that include 25 to 30 books, two teacher guides, DVD, and an audiobook. The audiobooks are available for students with learning disabilities.
Located by the circulation desk is a bookshelf with school supplies. Sheree explains that this is the “AR Store.” The AR budget enables her to stock supplies that students can purchase. Funds earned are then used for AR rewards such as books, book covers, posters, bookmarks, and other literacy events.
Among the many things I notice around the media center are the glass walls surrounding the media center – at least one of them has writing on it. Sheree explains that these are the target goals for lessons she is currently teaching. Difficult to capture through a camera lens but what a great way to make explicit what learning is happening daily in the media center. Sheree says that one of her greatest challenges is “teaching students that library skills have value. I challenge myself to find fun and exciting ways to teach the students that having library skills is important to their future.” Her lessons on online safety, exemplified by brightly colored wall displays, have obviously had an effect on the students as revealed in my earlier conversation with the students.
As Sheree and I discuss her collaborations, especially with the English Language Arts teachers, two teachers walk up to us and Sheree introduces them. Casey Lewis, 6th grade Science Teacher, explains that the “media center is a welcoming place and the kids want to be there because they feel it is their library.” Heather McCoy, Intervention Specialist, adds that the “library instruction is invaluable so that kids know how to use the resources and it’s great to see kids like to read.” Sheree expands her instructional role to provide PD for teachers with Tech Tuesdays. “Tech Tuesdays” provides Sheree with an opportunity to collaborate with teachers as she helps them integrate technology and resources into their lessons. Sheree addresses research skills with students as they work on their historical figure day; online safety and bullying, and support for all teacher/student projects.
Collaboration is essential and Sheree describes the arrangements she has with the public library. “If we don’t have the resources my students need, I have a great relationship with the public library. If my students are in need of materials that I do not have, I give the public library a call and if they don’t have it, they request the materials through their consortium or via SEO.” As a former employee at the public library for nine years, Sheree is well versed in working with them.
As Heather McCoy remarks – “the library means fantastic learning for the students – this is a teaching and learning place.” WPMS’s media center provides a dynamic learning environment as revealed by the comments of students and teachers. The best part, as Sheree says, “ Being a school librarian is my dream job. I love books and I love teaching. It is a blessing to have the opportunity to inspire my students to find a passion in literature and a love of reading.” There is no greater job in this world!”
Follow Sheree on @MrsBarnett43
Written By: Susan Yutzey