When I attended the Scholastic Reading Summit in Chicago in 2017, I had breakfast with Mr. Schu, I heard Kwame Alexander, Donalyn Miller, Colby Sharp, Sue Haney, and I watched Mr. Schu interview Kate DiCamillo. Every bit of it was positively amazing. And, getting the opportunity to finally meet fellow librarian Rhonda Jenkins in person is also one of the highlights from that day. Rhonda is the amazing librarian at Kendall Elementary in Naperville, IL, and she is a wealth of great ideas that make the library the most happening place in the building. She is a star in my Twitter Personal Learning Network, and she inspires me to reach greater heights as a school librarian.
She empowers kids as library users. Even the kindergartners are checking out their own books! She fosters a love of reading through exciting team reading challenges, and the her makerspace is a dream! A cake decorating club? In the library? Why not? And, her “Think Write Board”, puts a smile on my face every day. I love reading her questions and the student responses. I think her student, Emma, said it best, “She is booktastic!” (I agree, Emma). If you are organizing a One School, One Book event, check out the her display for Wishtree. What a creative way to generate increased excitement and interest in the story!
It would be a dream to spend a day in her library, and guess who else thinks so? Mr. Schu! He frequents her library, and in case you missed it, CBS This Morning tagged along on one of Mr. Schu’s visits to Kendall. If you go to the 2018 Scholastic Reading Summit in Chicago or in Raleigh-Durham, you are definitely in for an unforgettable day, and you can also meet Rhonda in person, as she’s presenting! You won’t want to miss her session and all of the ideas has to share, and I bet you’ll see just how “booktastic” she is, too!
Meet Rhonda Jenkins!
How long have you been a librarian?I have been a librarian for four wonderful years.
What do you enjoy the most about being a librarian?
Everything. Seriously, I enjoy everything about my job. I love that I get to know each and every student at my school. I love that I get the chance to expose students and teachers to great books. I love teaching students and staff how to use technology available to us. Books, oh how I love buying and reading books. This job is the perfect marriage of everything I love, teaching, students, technology and books!
What is an activity, event, or lesson you enjoy doing with students?
All year long, we look forward toApril for our Spark a Fire and Read contest. We start to prepare for April in March. As a school community, we sign up and join squads, staff and students mix together, we pick our leader – whom we call our Top Dog, come up with a fabulous squad name and get ready to read during the month of April. Our goal is to beat our goal and for the past three years, we have blown it out of the water! I find any kind of way to reward the school spirit we show . . . first squad to sign up, first to report their minutes, longest squad name, smallest squad, best team name, best T-shirt design, most improved over previous week, etc.! We end the celebration of reading and teamwork with a dance party! So much excitement for reading is shown throughout the month. We love it and I love hosting our Spark a Fire and Read contest!
How do you partner with or collaborate with faculty?
I have a regularly scheduled, once a month planning time with each grade level team. This is the formal time, but I meet and talk with teachers about the needs as frequently as possible.
What challenges do you regularly face and how do you overcome them or handle them?
One major challenge is a budget to support my cravings for new books. Good books are published constantly and I love to fill my shelves with them. A limited budget forces me to rethink and modify my decisions. Sometimes, I just spend my own money.
How has your job changed over the years?
I’ve only been in the position for four years. The changes that came about, I believe they were necessary. Most of the changes were ideas I felt I needed in the library – having a makerspace in the library was one major change.
I have also seen a shift to using more technology as tools to meet educational goals. I am the technology guru in the building and feel that it’s a very important role that I must manage.
Why do you enjoy being a teacher/ librarian? Being a teacher/librarian is the marriage of everything I love about the profession – students, books , technology, and teaching. What more can I ask for?
What advice do you have to share with librarians?
Don’t be afraid of change . . . it’s coming! Keep up with what’s happening through social media, professional journals and your Personal Learning Network – branch out and tell your story.
School libraries...and school librarians are the heart of the school. Make sure everyone feels the beat as it speeds up and slows down when necessary!
What inspires you and helps challenge you to grow professionally?
Knowing that I am a lifelong learner, I understand that there is usually a new and inspiring way to do something. Being free and undaunted by change helps me to accept the things I can, change the things I must, and just truly look for the positive in everything around and inside me.
Thank you, Rhonda, for answering my questions!