Freedom to Read

Personal Statement

Description of my background:

I am currently a high school library media specialist in Kenosha, Wisconsin. I have been a teacher in the Kenosha Unified School District for 22 years. As a teacher I have had the pleasure of using many modern technologies to promote literacy and global awareness in the schools where I have worked. In fact bringing the world to my classrooms has been a cornerstone of my teaching philosophy for many years.
News Article

In the past eight years I have been fortunate to contribute volunteer work in the Bahamas and Guatemala. I have been able to connect students in Kenosha to students on Eleuthera and Guatemala. My focus has been to facilitate cultural understanding through curricular study between two very different student populations.

On Eleuthera I have conducted 14 video-conferences from North Eleuthera Primary School, PA Gibson Primary School, Harbour Island All-Age School and Governor's Harbour Primary School. Each connection centered on student research that ranged from state and national symbols to the tenets of government and commerce. My students in both Wisconsin and Eleuthera shared reports, illustrations, songs and poetry to identify their similarities and differences.

In Guatemala I have been a volunteer through Adventure Kids Learning to assist with bringing water tanks to remote regions in the mountains so that small villages will have access to potable water. I have facilitated four video-conferences to various sites in Guatemala in the past three years. In March 2011 I gave a presentation at the Wisconsin Educational Media and Technology Association (WEMTA) conference on video-conferencing in the classroom. I connected to Guatemala live for that event.

As for my personal connection to the Bahamas and Eleuthera in particular, my parents were single-engine pilots who loved the adventure that came with flying over the Bahama Islands back in the early to mid-1960s. My first trip to Eleuthera was 1965. Our family bonded with Emmanuel Thompson's family from Gregory Town. We visited and lived with our Bahamian "relatives" several times a year while I was growing up. Now my own husband of 34 years and two children (26 and 23) feel like naturalized Bahamians because of my roots on Eleuthera.

In June of 2002 I decided it was time for me to do some professional work on Eleuthera. I knew I would find some appropriate vehicle to give back to the people and community that I loved. It is with that open mind and passionate heart that I made a connection with Lang Fincher Hudepohl, Director of Exceptional Education Outreach (EEO). EEO is a nonprofit organization based out of Miami, Florida. http://www.eeobahamas.org/

In October 2002 I gave a presentation during the Teacher Professional Inservice Day in Savannah Sound, Eleuthera under Eleuthera District Superintendent Carnetta Ferguson. I followed the Ministry of Science seminar on recognizing science in everything we do. The focus of my three-hour presentation was the Four Block Framework for Literacy Instruction developed by Pat Cunningham. My audience of teachers from all over Eleuthera were enthusiastic participants as we chorally read poetry from Trinidadian poet M. NourbeSe Philip, and discussed how they can infuse literacy strategies in their already swelling curriculums.

Over the next two years (2003 and 2004) I delivered books to a local settlement library, and I worked with a small group of educators to enrich their teaching of comprehension in the primary schools on Eleuthera.

Then in March of 2005 I moved to Eleuthera for three months as an itinerant teacher for EEO. I worked in Governor's Harbour Primary School, North Eleuthera Primary School, James Cistern Primary School and Harbour Island All-Age School. I worked with the teachers from various schools on technology integration, special needs students in the mainstream classrooms, and library development.
(see Opening Books and Minds, Newsletter Fall '05, page 3)

It is during this extended teaching experience that I set up my first library in Bluff. Books had been sent to primary schools all over Eleuthera, however there was no standard procedure for libraries in these small settlements. I worked with then principal Deborah Deal and teacher Virginia Neely to design a library program that would function for their primary school.

I developed a hybrid system using color-coded labels to differentiate between categories in the Bluff collection. When I returned in 2006 Ms. Neely and I reviewed the procedures for collection management, circulation and collaboration with the classes at North Eleuthera Primary School (NEP).

As I continued my relationship with NEP in 2007 I added a new connection to P.A. Gibson Primary School in Hatchet Bay. I worked with EEO Itinerant teacher Deanna DelVecchio from Montreal, Canada. We successfully created a library at that school using my hybrid color-coding system. Books continue to be circulated at that library even today.

From 2006 until 2011 I continued volunteering my expertise to library services under the nonprofit umbrella of Island Relief Charity. I serve the libraries in the North of Eleuthera, adding the development of James Cistern Public Library, Current Community Library, and Gregory Town Public Library while also working several times in the south at Weymss Bight and Tarpum Bay.

Both James Cistern and Gregory Town are planning Grand Opening Ceremonies for June 2012. I am currently in contact with both Library Attendants to create a memorable experience for their communities with the inclusion of the Bahamas Library Services and Ministry of Education Officials.

In the summer of 2010 I traveled to Nassau to work with the Ministry of Education's Bahamas Library Services to collaborate with Ms. Dorcas Bowler, Head Librarian of the Bahamas. We provided a training workshop for new Library Attendants from all over the Bahamas. It was an honor to be their guest presenter for three days at their headquarters in Nassau. I was able to train new Attendants in circulation policy, basic copyright rules, access to international databases and how to make global connections. I also assisted in the creation of a data entry spreadsheet as a way for out island Library Attendants to add their collection materials to the national library database of the Bahamas.
(click download (19KB) to launch)

The final day of our workshop took us on a field trip to several public libraries on Nassau. Library Trainees Attend Workshop

I am committed to continuing the relationships started at that seminar. Several of the new Library Attendants have contacted me via email and SKYPE with their ongoing questions.
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It is my intention to continue building, developing and maintaining libraries and resource centers all over the out islands in the Bahamas through this newly created NonProfit Agency: Freedom to Read, Inc.