As an English literature major, it’s pretty tough for me to select just one poem that speaks to me, but the one that I typically go back to is “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley. I especially love the last two lines because they are incredibly empowering!
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.
Tell us about yourself along with a fun fact!
Most people don’t expect a library information specialist to say, “Trust my crazy,” but this is how I choose to be what I call a “no-ssh librarian” at Shepard Middle School in Deerfield District 109 in Deerfield, Illinois. Shepard has been my home away from home since 1998; I started there right out of college as a computer lab assistant and was blessed to work with one of the most knowledgeable, humble, and inspiring individuals I’ve met; my work with him still influences me today–over 19 years later.
Since I don’t sit still very well, I’ve worn many hats while at Shepard–lab assistant, language arts teacher, social studies teacher, and now librarian. Being the librarian allows me to work with all students and staff in our school’s Learning Commons, a very active learning space that is anything but the stereotypical library.
On any given day, you might come in and see us creating lightbulbs from scratch for an Edison Makerspace, helping students revise their essays in a Revise-a-Palooza (complete with cool music), or cheering after solving the puzzles in our latest Breakout EDU. The library is more than just books and research. It’s the heart of our school–a place buzzing with activity, a place of wonder and fun, a place that inspires our students and staff. Each and every day I feel incredibly fortunate to work in this magical place!
When I’m not living it up in my Learning Commons, I’m the mom to two amazing boys–Gavin (6th grade) and Garrett (5th grade)–and the wife to my incredibly kind and funny husband, Scott. My husband is in IT, so between my interest in educational technology and his background in programming, we love to challenge our children to harness the power of technology–going beyond consumption to creation. Their latest love is creating stop motion films using Legos or clay, which they have submitted to their school district’s film festivals. We also have a deep appreciation for the outdoors and enjoy seeing National Parks, going for a hike in our local forest preserve, or observing all of the fun critters in our own backyard!
Fun fact: When I was an English teacher, I asked my students to create a bucket list as a part of their autobiography project. I was so inspired by this assignment that I created my own and each year since then I have worked to mark something off of my list. I’ve run a marathon (now three!), gone skydiving, completed the Chicago Polar Plunge, and was invited to the White House. It’s pretty exciting to set my sights on a new adventure each year. This year it’s seeing Niagara Falls while in Toronto and going whitewater rafting near Lake Placid, New York. I can’t wait!
What # would define your life journey?
Favorite website / app:
I have many favorites lately. I absolutely love Twitter. It’s been such a powerful tool for me to microblog what’s happening in my professional life and personal life. I also am amazed by the connections I’ve made and the professional development it offers.
Canva is a tool I really enjoy using as well. It’s such an easy way to create beautiful, sleek graphics. I’ve used it to create a modern resume and help students use it to make infographics. There is so much here I know I have yet to explore!
Bitmoji is a blast! There’s just something so cute and fun about seeing your friends and yourself in cartoon form. I love sending and receiving texts and e-mails with Bitmojis; it just makes the mundane that much more fun!
Bloxels is awesome! I was getting tired of watching my sons play video games all day, so I supported the Bloxels Kickstarter to get kits for my children to MAKE video games! We now have a couple sets in my library, and the kids always love playing with them.
Lastly, I’m a big virtual reality (VR) geek, so I love CoSpaces. This has been a game-changer in our school. Rather than just consuming VR content, CoSpaces allows students to create virtual worlds and then view them in Google Cardboard or a Viewmaster VR viewer. It’s been amazing to see what students create to demonstrate their learning!
What skill or craft would you like to master?
Since becoming entrenched in the Maker Movement, I would love to learn how to sew again. I took a home ec class in junior high where a portion of the class was spent learning how to sew on a sewing machine. Flash forward to today (about 28 years later), and I always think about the clothes or items I could make around the house–especially when I know in my mind what I want but can’t seem to find what I’m looking for anywhere. I even have a sewing machine I received as a gift a couple years back. It’s just taking the time to take lessons and tinker to figure it out. Maybe over summer break?
Someone who inspires you and knowledge they have imparted:
My dad continues to be one of my role models in my life and inspires me greatly. Throughout his life, he has faced hardship but he has always found a way to get back up, dust himself off, and keep going. I admire his courage and tenacity but also his ability to remain kind-hearted after all he has been through.
Despite having a tough upbringing, both he and my mom created an incredibly supportive and strong family unit that included my brother and me. (I like to call it our “tribe.”) I’m grateful that they sacrificed so much to give us this gift of family that they never experienced growing up. I had an ideal childhood and continue to feel their love and support as an adult.
Challenge you’ve faced and how you overcame it:
I have faced many challenges in my life, but it was 2009 when it felt like life came crashing down. My dad, who I am incredibly close with, suddenly had a mass in his abdomen, which later turned out to be Stage III renal cell carcinoma (kidney cancer). Months later my only living grandparent had a stroke and temporarily lost the ability to speak. Lastly, my son, who was only three years old at the time, suddenly had several tonic clonic seizures within a week’s time and was diagnosed with epilepsy. In a matter of eight months that year, it felt like my life was crumbling all around me. Every time I worked through a challenge, another unexpected blow would hit.
It’s moments like these when we have to look deep within ourselves and make a choice. We can let it destroy us or we can rise up like the phoenix and be stronger due to it. I allowed myself my pity parties and certainly had moments when I felt like I was in a fog, but I recognized that sitting around and wallowing in sadness and despair wasn’t going to move me forward. And life just kept on moving forward regardless of what I was doing. Therefore, I chose to focus on the silver linings, think about the lessons I was supposed to learn from these events, and I kept on going. Now that it’s eight years later, I can see how these events brought my family even closer together and made us a stronger unit. And, for that, I am incredibly grateful for it all. (I’m also grateful to report that my dad remains cancer-free and my son grew out of his seizures!)
My ideal job is one that allows me to make a difference in my corner of the world; after all, I feel this is my life’s purpose. It allows me to follow my passion. It supports my love for lifelong learning. It promotes risk-taking, creativity, and fun. Fortunately for me, I am currently holding my ideal job. Every single day (no joke!) I think about how grateful I am to do what I do surrounded by the best colleagues on the planet! Being a library information specialist today is incredibly exciting. Of course there are the amazing books and the fun of digging up reputable information through research, but I have chosen to make it so much more through things like our makerspace, virtual reality, Breakout EDU, and green screen video production. There is always something new to explore and try out, and I’m grateful that my school has what we call “a culture of yes” that allows us to go for it!
What knowledge would you impart to women in order for them to REIGN their lives?
Stay true to what’s in your heart. There will be plenty of naysayers and haters as you travel through life. They will try to bring you down. Just remember that their naysaying and hating is a reflection of them–not you. Listen to your heart, do what’s right, and stay the course. It will all work out as it should in the end. Just believe.