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Newton Collins ES librarian expanding minds one lesson at a time

Newton Collins ES librarian expanding minds one lesson at a time
Christian Aleman-Rodriguez

Newton Collins ES librarian Amy Gonzalez is taking library visits to a new level by collaborating with teachers to get the most out of class visits.

Now in her sixth year at NCES and tenth as a librarian, Amy seeks to inspire students to explore classroom topics outside of school through books and immersive experiences that build on teachers’ lessons.

Ahead of a class visit to the library, Amy connects with teachers and asks what students are learning about or about to engage in so she can create a lesson that complements or introduces students to the topic at hand. She develops activities and lesson plans and even puts together web pages that help students further understand the topic at hand in the classroom.

“I always try to make my lessons really engaging and teach them in a different way that you might not be able to do in the classroom, in a more formal environment. In the Mariana Trench lesson I wrote, we read stories about Challenger Deep, and James Cameron was one of the people who went down the trench into Challenger Deep,” Amy said.

“I've made a website where they can go and continue learning. So even if we run out of time during the library lesson, the teacher will post it in Google Classroom, and during enrichment time, they can go and continue to learn about it.”

Paired with her own understanding of teaching as a former classroom educator of 11 years, she engages students in a manner that isn’t always practical in a classroom setting.

“We have fun, and we don't really have problems with discipline or anything. When fifth grade was learning about drama, they asked me to do something to go with it. So when the kids came in, we did theater exercises,” she said. “I got them up, and we pretended to be elephants and did all kinds of things. We had a really good time. Then, the interactive piece I had for them afterward was a virtual tour of the Globe Theatre that they could go and look at, and then I gave them the theater exercises if they wanted to look at them later.”

Another activity she does is “book dating,” or “best book forever” for elementary students, where classes are separated into small groups and switch between reading and discussing different books every few minutes in an effort to spur their interest in titles they may not usually pick out for themselves.

“There are always lessons where we talk, especially as we get into third grade, about reading chapter books and novels and really branching out. Getting away from ‘Dog Man’ and ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid,’ like the books that they all want to turn to at first, and look to find yourself in books,” Amy said.

For her youngest readers in Pre-K and kindergarten, Amy picks out a select variety of books around their reading level and lays them out on the library tables. She does that in an effort to help students choose books they are able to read and aren't overwhelmed by the wealth of books on the shelves.

“It's the most wonderful thing to be able to help everyone in your school and to watch the kids grow as people and as readers,” Amy said. "I'm thankful all the time that I get to be in this position and to help everyone.”

Amy encourages all teachers to connect with their school librarians and vice versa to create unique opportunities for students outside the classroom environment.

Newton Collins ES librarian Amy Gonzalez holds up a book with a smile
Newton Collins ES librarian Amy Gonzalez puts a book on a shelf at the library