Dr. Paula Reed
Rossville Middle School
Walker County Schools
My parents were both professional librarians, and I spent a great amount of time in the University of Georgia Libraries as a child. When I was offered the chance to be the media specialist at my school, I looked forward to spending time searching for and collecting wonderful books that my students and teachers would come to love. As I complete year five in the media center and year 28 as an educator, I realize that the biggest part of my work is everything but books. And I love the challenge!
I am a collector…of books, oddities, facts, trivia, details, and just stuff. If you need it, I probably have it in my trove of treasures. When I moved into the media specialist position at my school, I moved into a huge room with bookshelves, tables, walls, and high ceilings with which I can display the cool things that appear in my space. The media center has windows into both the main hallway and the school yard, but it needed something to capture interest and draw people in to explore. I know I have been successful when visitors to our building walk past the windows and say, “Cool!” or “Wow!” My coworker says I showcase the adventures that go with the books.
Now that I have people coming into the media center, my goal is to have them come back. With the support of my principal, I have been able to add new furniture to replace the traditional oak furniture found in every school library since the 1950’s. Along with new tables and chairs, I have added gathering spaces -standing tables, tall tables and chairs, arm chairs and coffee tables, and bean bags. One tall table has poster sized coloring pages for visitors who need some coloring therapy. Another table is home to a puzzle in progress. Legos, dominos, and board games are available for students who visit during lunch. Students visit in small groups to record videos and podcasts, make posters, and practice class presentations. I have heard that mine is the noisiest media center some kids have ever seen, and I take that as a compliment.
My flexible schedule (which is posted online for all teachers to see) allows classes to come for book checkouts, special lessons from me in cooperation with the classroom teachers, project activities, virtual reality experiences, and more. My media center is home to 28 Oculus Quest 2 headsets that are used by students in conjunction with classroom activities. VR experiences are collaboratively planned to allow students to see, hear, and become immersed in the classroom content. My students have stood onstage with Broadway performers, seen the Eiffel Tower, and been inside vacuoles. They have been to space, seen the Taj Mahal, and experienced a nuclear blast -all from the safety of the school media center.
My current principal challenged me two years ago (when he took the helm of our school) to have a media center for the 23rd century, not the 21st. The stack of virtual reality headsets that greeted me at the beginning of this school year proved that he was willing to provide financial support to back his challenge. I have known my principal for many years. He was my peer, then my assistant principal, and now my boss. Knowing each other for so long has both perks and drawbacks, as he knows both my strengths and my weaknesses. This is the first time that I have ever had a principal who is a reader, and his support of the media center reflects his love of books and learning. He throws out ideas, and I try to make them come to life.
My principal likes to orchestrate and delegate, and one of the responsibilities I was given this year was being the school contact for the TVA Energy Right grant our school received. The only request the principal had was that he wanted a book vending machine for our school. The students voted on the changes they wanted, and I orchestrated the addition of the book vending machine, a Glowforge laser printer, benches for our school grounds, and equipment for walking trails on our school campus. The Glowforge has been a fun addition to the school, as I have several students learning to design in Tinkercad to print their creations. I have been able to print awards for the track team (designed by the coach) and business logos designed by students. I look forward to printing more teacher and student creations in the coming year.
One of the main reasons for purchasing a Glowforge was to meet the news of our Community Based Education (CBE) program and their curriculum goal of creating a product, selling that product, and reinvesting their profits into making more products. Next year, I plan to work with the CBE teachers and students to design and produce marketable products for their school store. I am also planning to create other manipulatives and adaptive materials for the students.
While the view into the empty media center from the hallway still looks like a room full of books, activity during the school day shows a much different perspective. Students and teachers bring the room to life, using the space to create, explore, and learn. But sometimes the media center is still a safe place to hide and read a book.
WDEF What’s Right With Our Schools: Book Vending Machine on YouTube: https://youtu.be/zjw6OMbLVVM
Students using the VR headsets
Finding out my superintendent, Damon Raines is afraid of heights
Me, taking a trip to Thailand
The book vending machine
Engraved drumsticks for our school drumline
I can engrave marshmallows!
My principal, Dr. Rob Stinson, and I with students at the ribbon cutting for the book vending machine