WATSON — Amanda Jones, a teacher-librarian at Live Oak Middle School who was recently named one of the 2021 national School Librarians of the Year by the School Library Journal says being a school librarian is the greatest job on the planet.
"I have the privilege of working closely with some great young people and helping to guide and assist them as they progress through their school years,” she said.
The School Library Journal is the major publication for librarians and information specialists who work with children and teens. Recognition also comes from Scholastic, the global children’s publishing, education and media company. The award won by Jones recognizes library professionals for outstanding achievement and for their innovative way of using technology to help children and teens in the learning process.
Jones said that through her work as a librarian she is able to work with teachers in various disciplines at her school. She said she uses the many resources that are available at the school library and public libraries to enhance and broaden what is being taught in the classroom.
“I do collaborative lessons through the teachers and every teacher at our school books library days when I work with the teachers and students to help add something special to classroom instruction," she said. "For example, if a class is studying geography, I use information on the computer such as Google Earth to illustrate first of all the whole Earth and then I bring the picture down to a specific country and tell stories about the nation that is being studied. There are so many resources available for teachers today and exploring new ways of getting the message to students makes my job exciting and challenging."
In a news release announcing that Jones had won the prestigious award, School Library Journal Editor-In-Chief Kathy Ishizuka wrote, “exemplars of the profession, the 2021 School Librarians of the Year are particularly inspiring for their innovative work supporting student learning in such a challenger year.”
For the first time in the award’s history, two recipients were honored. Jones shares the award with a school librarian in Molokai, Hawaii. Both award winners are featured in the April 2021 issue of the national publication.
The 2020 school year brought many challenges to teachers when the threat of the coronavirus forced a transfer to virtual learning at most schools.
“On March 13 of last year the schools were shut down and we, as teachers, were faced with having to somehow continue to reach out to our students," Jones recalled. "We had to keep teaching and the times made us try new ways of getting through to our students. I connected with students through 20 virtual tours that helped them continue the learning process. At the same time, using library resources, I created, along with a fellow teacher, Heather White, some webinar training for teachers, and we reached teachers in all 50 states and a number of foreign countries. We called our webinar ‘Our Two Cents,’ and it was readily accepted by fellow teachers. This helped them learn how to better use all the tools available for virtual learning."
The School Library Journal feature article on Jones’s accomplishments is titled, “Journeying with Jones.” It tells how Jones created the “Journey with Jones,” program last March to connect with her student who had stopped coming to school in-person because of the pandemic. Jones “escorted” her students on virtual trips using Zoom, Google slides and virtual reality.
Jones said students were responsive to the efforts put forth by their teachers during the time that virtual learning became a necessary way to continue the education process. She said that while modern technology has changed the landscape when it comes to teaching, many of the students today still enjoy reading books and keeping up with national and international news events.
“When I was young, I would watch television while I was reading the news and studying … today, young people are looking at their phones while they read and study … it’s the same thing, just different times and different media," she said. "Students still love to read and at our school of about 700 students, I check out about 500 books a month. Young people love graphic novels and audiobooks. The audio books are something new, but students are still gaining knowledge through these special books."
The acclaimed teacher said that if any of her students asked her if they should pursue a career in library science that she “would absolutely encourage them to do so.” “Being a librarian is a great profession. We need school librarians to add another, special dimension to the learning process,” she said.
Jones said she hopes that the recognition she has gained will help educational leaders at the state level realize the value of school libraries and encourage them to give more financial support.
Jones, who earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Southeastern Louisiana University and later her master’s degree from the same school, has been teaching for 20 years. She said she was educated through the Live Oak schools and chose to return to the same schools when she began her teaching career.
Being named national School Librarian of the Year is the latest honor bestowed on Jones. She has received a variety of honors and awards for her work. In 2020, she was named Louisiana School Librarian of the Year, Louisiana Association of Computer Using Educators, State Middle School Teacher of the Year, the James O. Modisette Award for top middle school librarians in Louisiana. She also received two national awards from the American Association of School Librarians, 2019 Social Media Superstar Program Pioneers and the 2019 AASL Inspire Special Event grant.
As a 2021 School Librarian of the Year Award winner, Jones will receive a suite of awards from Scholastic, including a $2,500 cash award and $2,500 in-kind digital and-or print products for her library, in addition to a visit from John Schumacher, the ambassador of school libraries for Scholastic Book Fairs, who will gift one book to every student at Live Oak Middle School and a Scholastic Book Fairs “Mr. Schu’s Picks,” collection of books for the school library.
She will be recognized by the Livingston parish School Board at its April 22 meeting.