Friday, September 21, 2012

Annual Fall Conference

"We're In!  Inquire, Inspire, Innovate"
BCTLA Coquitlam 2012

The conference program features a range of sessions that will interest teacher-librarians and educators from all levels, and anyone interested in improving their teaching skills in literacy (e.g. visual, critical, etc.), research, and technology.

Keynotes include:
Dr. David Loertscher, San José State University School of Library & Information Science and Chris Kennedy, CEO / Superintendent of Schools, School District #45 West Vancouver. Featured speakers include: Dr. Joanne de Groot, Dr. Ann Ewbank, Adrienne Gear, Judith Comfort, and over thirty other amazing educators.

BCTLA membership ($40) or subscription ($66.64) for non-BCTF members is also available as a package with conference registration.

Conference Program Information and Registratin:

Friday, June 29, 2012

Tammy Reynolds is 2012's BC New Teacher-Librarian of the Year

The BC Teacher-Librarians' Association is pleased to announce that Tammy Reynolds is the 2012 recipient of the BC New Teacher-Librarian of the Year Award.  

Tammy is the teacher-librarian at Coal Tyee Elementary School in Nanaimo, BC and is a student in the Master of Education (Teacher-Librarian) program at the University of Alberta.  She is, "a leader, a facilitator, and an exceptional teacher with the school library at the centre" and has "not only set the bar high but she has catapulted over it and gone beyond".   

Within her school library program, Tammy has been implementing inquiry-based learning, introducing and implementing technology, and providing opportunities for students to become engaged with reading and more (she organized a whole school math challenge through the month of February 2012).  She is also the staff representative, professional development representative, and leader of her staff's Professional Learning Network.  She administers the school's website and the staff blog.  For the past year, she has been the district leader in piloting the use of iPads and iPods.      

Her colleague writes: "Tammy has made the library the heart and hub of our school.  Students know that the library is a safe place where they can go.  They are always welcomed.  They know Mrs. Reynolds is there for them when they need a place to do research, help to find that perfect book or series that will interest them or a place to check in and say how their day is going". 

At the district level, Tammy provides mentoring and workshops and is also the leader of the district Teacher-Librarian Professional Learning Network, and is a leader within the district's Project Success initiative.  She is an author of a number of popular literacy resources available through SD68 Nanaimo-Ladysmith's District Resource Centre and of an article published in the district's magazine for families.  At the provincial level, Tammy is a member of the BC Teacher-Librarians' Association and will present on using iPods and iPads in the elementary classroom and library at the 2012 BCTLA conference.

Tammy is a key player in the district's efforts to ensure their school libraries are hubs of "teaching and learning, of collaboration, of research, discovery -- and play -- for students, educators and the community".  She, "embraces literacy in the same way that she embraces her children: with love".  

Tammy has been a teacher-librarian, formally, for only three years.  Her phenomenal efforts and talents are evidence of the magic that a passionate and well-supported teacher-librarian can bring to a school, district, and profession.          

BCTLA will be honoured to recognize Tammy Reynolds as the 2012 recipient of the BC New Teacher-Librarian of the Year Award at the 2012 BCTLA Conference on Friday, October 19, 2012 at Riverside Secondary School in Port Coquitlam, BC.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Pat Parungao is the 2012 Recipient of the Ken Haycock Professional Development Grant

The BC Teacher-Librarians' Association is pleased to announce that Pat Parungao is the 2012 recipient of the Ken Haycock Professional Development Grant. 

Pat is currently a teacher-librarian at Gladstone Secondary in Vancouver and previously originated the role of Teacher-Librarian Consultant for the Vancouver School Board.  Pat is an exceptional teacher-librarian and is a phenomenal leader in our profession. At the school level, her amazing work, including the transformation of Gladstone’s school library into a learning commons, resulted in her being honoured with the 2010 Follett International Teacher-Librarian of the Year award. At the district, provincial and national level, Pat’s work on initiatives such as being a co-author of Students' Information Literacy Needs in the 21st Century: Competencies for Teacher-Librarians and Canada’s Year of Asia Pacific Multicultural Bibliography (recently updated and revised) was just one of the reasons that she was the 1998 recipient of the BCTLA’s highest honour, the Diana Poole Memorial Award of Merit.  Pat is a Past President of BCTLA.

With support from the Ken Haycock Professional Development Grant, Pat participated in the 2nd biannual Treasure Mountain Canada symposium, which was held on June 2-3 in Ottawa.  The symposium theme was, "Learning for the Future" and the focus was on beginning the redevelopment of national standards for school libraries.  Pat was interested both in learning what outstanding teacher-librarians have to say about the topic and in participating in discussion with them to revise Achieving Information Literacy: Standards for School Libraries in Canada.

The BCTLA was pleased to recognize Pat Parungao as the 2012 recipient of the BCTLA Ken Haycock Professional Development Grant at the 2012 BCTLA AGM on April 14 in Vancouver.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Donald Hamilton Receives the 2012 BCTLA Honorary Life Membership Award

BCTLA is honoured to recognize Donald Hamilton as a 2012 recipient of the BCTLA Honourary Life Membership Award.

From 1971 to 2000, Donald was the Education Librarian at the University of Victoria, a position which “involved him in the preparation of teacher-librarians at UVic and in extensive in-service work for teacher-librarians in Canada”.  He created and hosted the five Pearson Programs that drew over 400 qualified teacher-librarians to Pearson College for a week long immersion in-service program from 1978 through 1987. He served as President of the Canadian School Library Association (CSLA) in 1972 and for many years acted as managing editor of its journal, School Libraries in Canada.  In 1987 he was awarded the Margaret B. Scott Award of Merit by CSLA.  In 1995 he was a co-recipient of BCTLA’s Alan Knight Memorial Award for a publication in The Bookmark.  His publications are famous; the “greatest hits” are available online at  He was the Chair of the Forging Forward Symposium held in Ottawa in 1997.  Following his retirement, he was honoured with the BCTLA Distinguished Service Award for his continuing advocacy work for school libraries including holding the Chair of the BC Coalition for School Libraries from 2001-2 (  In 2001 he became a trustee for Victoria on the Greater Victoria Public Library, a position he held for 8 years.

Congratulations, Don, and thank you!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Bonnie McComb Receives the 2012 Val Hamilton Lifetime Achievement Award and the BCTLA Honourary Life Membership Award

Few teacher-librarians in B.C. have ever, or will ever, make the kind of contributions
toward the profession of teacher-librarianship in BC—and toward BCTLA as an
association—as has Bonnie McComb.

As a school-based teacher-librarian, Bonnie is a legend. One example of this is that she has been a leader in her school as an organizer of professional development events for her colleagues as well as whole-school literacy events. The latter includes annually a school-wide celebration of Drop Everything and Read (featuring DEAR t-shirts which Bonnie later took province-wide) which in 2011 was made famous on YouTube, and book clubs for students and staff. The culture of reading that Bonnie inspired at Parkland Secondary is an example of one of the topics of the many BCTLA conference presentations and articles in The Bookmark that Bonnie contributed as she consistently sought to share her expertise with the teacher-librarian community at large as a professional.

At the district level, Bonnie has also been a leader and pivotal force within the Saanich
Teacher-Librarians’ Association. She has served as local president for many years, hosted a BCTLA conference at her school, revised library technician job classification language, served on the leadership committee that created the Saanich District Library Handbook (that includes qualification requirements for teacher-librarians and library technicians), been a part of countless advocacy campaigns (including such novel approaches as buying ads in papers and printing bookmarks) and mentored and supported her teacher-librarian colleagues. She is currently advocating for a district-wide transformation of school libraries to learning commons.

Bonnie has also been a force at the provincial and national level. Early in her career, she was encouraged by BCTLA President Diana Poole to become involved with the BCTLA Executive. She has been an executive member serving in various roles including Communications Officer, Vice-President Chapter Relations, President and Conference Chair for over 20 years. A key member of the BCTLA Executive, Bonnie has been involved in every provincial teacher-librarian campaign and initiative of the last quarter century. She has worked tirelessly to ensure the success of the association and its conferences.

For her efforts and exemplary work as a teacher-librarian at all levels, Bonnie has
previously been awarded the NBS Teacher-Librarian of the Year Award (2003) and the
Alan Knight Memorial Award (2010 and 2011).

BCTLA will be honoured to recognize Bonnie as the 2012 recipient of the Val Hamilton Lifetime Achievement Award and the BCTLA Honourary Life Membership Award at the 2012 BCTLA Conference on Friday, October 19, 2011 at Riverside Secondary School in Port Coquitlam, BC.

Friday, June 1, 2012

BCTLA Summer Institute: "Learning Commons in BC"

August 28 & 29
John Oliver Secondary Learning Commons, Vancouver
Cost: $85 (registration is limited)
Please bring a laptop or iPad, etc.  

Day 1) Exploring the Learning Commons Concept

August 28, 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Location: Learning Commons, John Oliver Secondary, VSB
Speaker: Carol Koechlin

The key figure in the learning commons movement in Canada, Carol Koechlin has worked as a classroom teacher, teacher-librarian, instructional leader, consultant, and university faculty member in Ontario, retiring as an award-winning Library Consultant for the Toronto District School Board.  She is the author of many articles and several books, including Build Your Own Information Literate School with Sandi Zwann and Ban Those Bird Units!: 15 Models For Teaching And Learning In Information-Rich And Technology-Rich Environments with Sandi, and Dr. David Loertscher.  Carol and David developed the learning commons concept based on the inspiration and model of the Chapman Learning Commons at UBC, which is featured in the “Learning Commons in BC” video.  The concept is most detailed in Canada in the Ontario School Library Association document, Together for Learning: School Libraries and the Emergence of the Learning Commons, which Carol co-authored.  Carol is sought after as a speaker on topics including learning commons transformation, information literacy, and inquiry-based learning. 

Description: On Day 1, Carol will lead us through a day of collaborative knowledge building to help us understand the learning commons concept.  We will explore how teacher-librarians working in a learning commons can:

  • Lead in the design of excellent learning experiences
  • Foster a collaborative school culture
  • Design and re-design physical and virtual learning environments
  • Contribute to school improvement

Social Event
August 28, 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Location: Shaughnessy Suite, Holiday Inn Vancouver Centre

Day 2) Connecting the Concept to Practice

August 29, 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Location: Learning Commons, John Oliver Secondary, VSB
Facilitators: BC Teacher-Librarians 

On Day 2, we will examine how the concepts might translate into our practice.  Thinking in practical terms, how can we transform our spaces and programs here in BC?  Where does one begin?  What information needs to be considered?  What works?  What are some of the pitfalls? Participants will have an opportunity to hear from colleagues who are leading in the transformation of their libraries.   

Sunday, May 6, 2012

BCTLA Advocacy Announcements

The BC Teacher-Librarians' Association is pleased to announce that BCTLA will be part of a research study with Dr. Ann Dutton Ewbank (Arizona State University).  The project, "The Role of Teacher Unions in School Library Advocacy: A Case Study of the British Columbia Teacher-Librarians' Association and the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation", was selected as a 2012 recipient of the American Association of School Librarians’ (AASL) Research Grant.  

From the AASL release: the research on BCTLA and BCTF, "will investigate the unique relationship between the two organizations and how they work together to advocate for strong school library programs in the Canadian province.  To meet the project’s research goals, Ewbank, the assistant division director for graduate programs in Arizona State University’s teachers college, will travel to Vancouver, British Columbia, to interview association and federation board members and also review their association governance documents.  From this material, she will explore what impact the association’s combined advocacy efforts have made in the province.

'Ann Dutton Ewbank’s proposal is unique,' said Ann Marie Pipkin, award committee chair. 'She is looking through a different lens and researching from an original perspective the interactions needed to create strong school library programs.  This research has the potential to serve as a model for future school library advocacy.  A great deal of work was done beforehand to allow for the success of the project'."


In addition, BCTLA is also honoured to have been invited to join a Joint Committee of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions School Libraries and Resource Centres section (IFLA SLRC) and the International Association of School Librarianship (IASL). The Joint Committee will undertake a two-year project to develop a module of training materials for school library advocacy titled "School Libraries on the Agenda: School Library Advocacy".

Along with BCTLA Vice-President, Advocacy Jeff Yasinchuk, other members of the Joint Committee include: Dianne Oberg (Canada), Randi Lundvall (Norway; Chair of IFLA SLRC), Diljit Singh (Malaysia, President of IASL), Lourense Das (Netherlands), Lesley Farmer (USA), Luisa Marquardt (Italy), and Barbara Schultz-Jones (USA).

Dr. Dianne Oberg writes that, "IASL and IFLA SLRC are uniting their efforts to develop school library advocacy materials that will contribute to IFLA's Building Stronger Library Associations initiative and to IFLA's Online Learning Platform. The project is designed to contribute to improving school libraries and to enhance the leadership skills of those involved in school library development in both of the two school library groups.  The online training materials will include topics such as association development, communication skills, professional development design, and collaboration and advocacy skills".


The BC Teacher-Librarians' Association is thankful for the opportunities to share our advocacy strategies and experience, and to improve our own school library and teacher-librarian advocacy program! 

For more information on some of BCTLA’s advocacy initiatives, see

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Spring Webinar Series (May 1 and May 15)

Databases and Curation 2.0

May 1 and May 15
4:00 PM (PST)
Cost Free!

BCTLA is continuing to offer professional development opportunities for educators with the launch of a spring webinar series in May.   

Host Gordon Powell will lead two workshops, the first focusing on getting the most from the ERAC bundle and the second on curation.

For more information and to register: 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Bill 22 -- Perspective from a 30 Year Teaching Veteran in School District #85

The following letter was sent by teacher-librarian and ELL teacher Sandra Gunson (Eagle View Elementary School, Port Hardy) to her MLA Claire Trevena on February 29, 2012 - the Day of Pink.

Good Morning Claire and fellow members of Parliament in Victoria,

According to the radio advertisements by Premier Christy Clark, today is a day to wear pink representing our awareness of the importance to respect one another, improve our societal norms and conditions, eliminate racism and intolerance, and embrace understanding and acceptance of people's differences.

Tolerance and mutual respect, in turn, lead to improved communication and understanding amongst people with differing opinions or points of view.

This is my 30th year as an educator in the province of B.C.  I work in School District #85 (Vancouver Island North).  I am wearing pink at school today to acknowledge the ongoing importance of anti-bullying and tolerance toward all individuals.

I can't help wondering how many of our honorable MLAs and Ministers are wearing pink today?

All week (and every day) I live, and model, tolerance, respect for all individuals, curiosity and love of learning; and a caring supportive learning environment where students feel they belong and are loved, valued and respected.  I have been reading and discussing the messages conveyed within books, such as Just Kidding and The Secret Bully to my students all week.

It appears that there is something fundamentally wrong and ironic when Bill 22, the "Education Improvement Act", containing nearly a complete page entitled "Offences" (to list only one section of this legislated Act) is being discussed in Parliament on the day Premier Clark has been happily announcing as Anti-Bullying Day to the B.C. citizens. Perhaps this event alone requires some reflection.....

Since I am one of the 40,000 teachers affected by Bill 22, and have been a dedicated educator serving thousands of students and families in our beautiful province for 30 years (actually it is my 30th year teaching this year!)  I feel qualified to share my thoughts and story today.

I started teaching at age 22 (after five years at UVic) in 1982 in rural CFS Holberg.

In 1981 there were teaching jobs everywhere...many of my friends were offered positions at several different districts.  Then Bill Vander Zalm clamped down on education and cutbacks were severe.  Districts were laying off teachers in droves.

Although I was a President's Scholar, had won several Teaching Awards at UVic, had grade 8 Royal Conservatory Piano, and 2 Dance Teachers' qualifications in Highland and Tap, I received letter after letter from districts informing me that they would love to hire me, but had to lay off teachers.  Times were very tough for teachers.  Out of 3 sections at UVic (about 300 graduates) only 7 of us obtained jobs in 1982.

I had grown up in Port Hardy and was well known as a hard worker, full of energy and love of life. I had also been teaching dancing in Port Hardy since I obtained my first teaching certification when I was 17.  I managed to get my first teaching position in very isolated CFS Holberg.

The gravel road was nearly an hour's drive from Port Hardy (when it was accessible) and there were about 400 people on the base and 400 people in the nearby logging camp.  I lived in a teacherage, which was initially filthy and infested with rats, on Black Bear Road on the base.  It was appropriately named because sometimes the bears would push their arms through the windows to try and swipe fresh baking on the table or hide near the front door when I was trying to get into my car.  The deer were much more friendly!  The residents in Holberg informed me when I first arrived, "If you can't see the mountains, it's raining. If you can....It's going to rain".  They were right!

My first teaching position was 0.5 Kindergarten and 0.3 music specialist for Grades K-7. There was not any music program at the school previously, so it was challenging to get older students interested...but in time they all grew to enjoy music.  Apparently, because of my music/dance background I was hired as "Continuing" immediately.  I was one of the few "lucky" teachers.

Teaching jobs continued to be virtually non existent around B.C. during the early 1980's so I ended up staying 3 years at CFS Holberg.  During this time, I was very involved in the community and even had a highland dancing school there as well as in Port Hardy.

My Kindergarten classroom leaked profusely and electrical wires were exposed in several places.  Some parents contacted a TV station and they did a report about my Kindergarten classroom.  We ended up with a new pre-fab school being erected the following year.

During my years at San Joseph School, I worked at school until 10:00 p.m. most evenings. Several of the new teachers also put in really long hours on a regular basis.  Teaching children is a challenge and also an amazing privilege.

I was lucky because I did okay financially and could support myself when I started teaching. The teacherage had very cheap rent and there was not a lot to spend money on in my isolated posting.  I taught at 2 different dancing schools, had worked at good paying jobs every summer, and had obtained scholarships throughout my 5 years at university; therefore I had been able to avoid taking out any student loans.

Many of my fellow colleagues struggled to pay back enormous student loans and had to take up second jobs.  Note: This hasn't changed since 1982!

Working in isolation requires creativity, initiative, and strength of character.  Mentor teachers or district specialists are not available or rarely cross the distance to view your teaching reality.  Small, isolated school districts like #85 do not have the same options and support personnel available to their teachers as do teachers in urban centers.  Many of my students had never been on a plane, ferry, train or visited a fast food chain, museum, or gallery.  I saw part of my job as a facilitator to offer my students a porthole to the rest of the world.  We explored and embraced our own backyards while also being introduced and exposed to new and different worlds beyond our isolated corner.

When you live in isolation and a child arrives in your class covered in cigarette burns, who do you report to?  When a child reports that their dad is away hunting and their mom is hiding in the closet growling because she thinks she is a cougar, what are your options? When a backhoe driver sneaks down your teacherage road to take an unscheduled break and backs into your fuel oil tank putting a hole in the side of the teacherage spilling the fuel oil and making your home condemned while you battle CFS because they won't admit it occurred, who assists you?  Luckily the CFS doctor was on my side that time and condemned the teacherage insisting the Air Force provide alternate accommodation.  I ended up getting sick, but I never stopped teaching!

These are just a few examples of what my life as a teacher was like in the beginning of my career.  Yet...I endured and continued in this profession.  Why?  Because I love teaching and always felt I was making a positive difference in the lives of the students I educated.

As a teacher I felt valued, respected, and important.

In the 1980's School Board members and Superintendents made a point of travelling out to our isolated school about once a month and staying for most of a day.  Sometimes a Superintendent would even stay and play with the students in Kindergarten or join in our lessons.  I received memos and notes thanking me for being a dedicated educator--even from the Superintendent.

Great appreciation was always shown when I initiated talent shows, concerts, or anything above and beyond my classroom position.  Feeling respected and appreciated as a teacher made me feel very positive about my job.

Initiating new programs or exploring more effective ways to teach students was encouraged by administration.

There was not a feeling of administration/government versus teachers.

I felt more of a kinship...a unified direction where the success and best interests of the child was the bottom line.  When our new school opened at CFS Holberg the Lieutenant Governor arrived to cut the ribbon and he personally thanked and recognized all the staff for their contribution to the education of "our" children.  I felt validated, important, and excited to have chosen to be a teacher in B.C.

I wish I could say I feel the same way right now.

I have worked in Port Hardy since 1986.  I am an involved member of the community and am totally dedicated to being an educator in School District #85.

During my 30 years as a teacher in this school district I have taught a myriad of positions including: classroom teacher for over 27 years (from Kindergarten to Grade 4), school fine arts specialist, school gifted specialist, school district Math 44 and C.G.I. teacher trainer, mentor for several teachers in our district, district representative initiating new provincial programs (personal planning, Language Arts), and more recently teacher-librarian (Masters of Teacher-Librarianship from U of Alberta in 2010), and E.L.L. specialist for the north zone of our school district. 


In 2002 I started losing my voice totally for weeks at a time.

I was teaching Kindergarten and also music specialty at school. Worker's Compensation determined I was their first supported case of teacher voice loss.  

I had several appointments at the Pacific Voice Center in Vancouver and even attended a summer voice rehab. program.  I had to increase my water intake and change my life style to accomodate the damage done on my vocal cords from years of teaching in rooms with echoing ceilings and very large class sizes.  After that time I was not permitted to teach music or classes lower than Grade 2 for a couple of years and I have a phonic ear microphone amplification system. 

During this time, the school's teacher-librarian retired. I had worked at a public library and taken 3 courses during my university undergraduate degree. The principal offered the teacher-librarian position to me (0.5) in addition to my grade 3 classroom (0.5) if I started a diploma or degree program in teacher-librarianship.

As I was a single parent and solely responsible for my son, I could not afford to leave my position to attend a library diploma or degree program at U.B.C. The only university to offere online programs was the University of Alberta.

I was accepted and for the following 4 1/2 years I worked full time at school, raised my son as a single parent, looked after my 2 handicapped parents (cancer, stroke, and parapeligic), took Master's level courses online, and still also coordinated the school track and field team, choreographed musicals at school, ran library clubs, and so forth. Such is the life of a teacher. 

I did take 1 year off from my Master's courses after my father died.

I should add that after starting my Teacher-Librarianship Master's degree, the library position was cut from 0.5 to 0.2 (prep time coverage).  I felt deceived!

However, the parents in my school banded together and fought for the library program at our local school board and the administrators recognized the immense value in the library as a center of literacy/inquiry/and development of 21st-Century learning, so over the past few years my library time has increased again and I work collaboratively with teachers instead of separately as prep time coverage. 

In our school library I have a learning commons approach. In addition to over 18,000 books I introduce AV2 media enhanced books and Tumblebooks on the SMART Board.  I teach media awareness and introduce hoax websites.  I teach students and staff how to properly cite information and not plagarize.  I introduce the best search engines and databases on our laptops and computers.  

I also use ipads, ipods, document cameras, laptops, and various new types of technology and software or apps.

The library contains a collection of taxidermy from my family's museum.  We have a fish tank with tropical fish and also grow salmon fry for the salmonid enhancement program.  We have displays of local history.  It is a center of inquiry and investigation.

I work with all classes and all students to ensure equal access for all students.  Many of our students own phones (but only text plans) and home computers (but no Internet access). Classes also send down small groups to work on enrichment activities.  We are currently creating imovies in several classes. One is about the history behind our school building.  We have been interviewing former students and staff and taking field trips into the community to locate archives--even microfiche at our local newspaper. 

I have a library club for Grade 4-7 students.  Nearly 1/3 of all students in Grades 4-7 attend my library club. (54 students).  We work on collaborative projects, create QRcode messages around the school, learn advanced research, and some have started creating book trailers to attach to my school website.

I was one of the people called down to the fire and acknowledged by Kaleb Child at the ceremony for the signing of the Aboriginal Enhancement Agreement last Friday at the Fort Rupert Big House.  Minister George Abbott, you were dancing behind our Superintendent Scott Benwell when he spoke with me during the friendship dance immediately after the signing of the agreement.  You looked my way as you danced past me and smiled.

The words you spoke in the Big House do not feel synonymous with the forced legislation teachers are facing with Bill 22.

As a teacher in British Columbia right now, I do not feel valued, respected, important, or cared about.

These are the qualities and attributes I expect from myself as a teacher and these are the qualities and attibutes I ensure I share with my students.

I feed students, make sure every student struggling financially has a birthday and Christmas present, support students, love and care about students.  I strive to develop curiousity and inquiry in students, foster a love of learning, introduce 21st-Century technology and ideas, work collaboratively with all staff and colleagues, share ideas and constantly aim to develop individuals who are global, caring citizens.  I am not alone!

There are so many talented, caring ,inspiring teachers in our province.

But with the constant cut backs, loss of programs, growing class sizes, declining economic conditions, poverty, and changing family structure; our job as an educator in this province is getting more and more challenging.

We struggle to find solutions for lack of resources, ensure students are fed and have clothes, while dealing with an ever growing numbers of students with I.E.P's in classrooms which often stretch teacher's capabilities with classroom management and personal health.

As a teacher with "experience" I try to encourage and support the newer members of our profession.

What I see and hear is a deeply growing discontent with the way the government views and supports teachers.

I would like to remind the government and any MLAs or Ministers listening that if "family" is truly a focal point for this government, then this government would benefit from remembering that nearly all teachers have families, too, and the most positive, content families are usually those who feel unconditional love and caring, where members are respected, valued, and supported.

Does Bill 22 represent your "family" philosophy?

Will this Bill truly result in teachers feeling respected, valued, and supported?

Isn't this what we want to see for our future generation?


Sandra Gunson
Teacher-Librarian and E.L.L. Teacher
Eagle View Elementary School
Port Hardy, B.C.

Friday, April 13, 2012

My Letter to My MLA

The following letter was sent by teacher-librarian Lorena Duran (New Westminster) to her MLA Jenny Kwan.

Hello Ms Kwan,

As a secondary school teacher-librarian I want to thank the NDP for its continuing support for teachers. The current Bill 22 and the Liberal agenda against the BCTF and public education must be stopped! Like you, I arrived to Canada as a young child. I am originally from Chile, where students are waging a protracted strike to protest the privatization of schooling. I fear that a neoliberal ideology of privatization of schools is something that would be sought by right-wing parties such as the BC Liberals. Instead, we should strive to improve our educational system by following the public education programs of Sweden or Finland. But no, this would involve addressing issues of child poverty, class sizes, and autonomous teacher professionalism. These strategies would not favour the rich and ruling class who aims to keep more of its wealth, pay less tax, and contain their children in private schools with exorbitant tuitions. I implore you to continue to fight for public education, responsible government, and a social safety net that will insure the equitable access to jobs, health, and education for ALL.

Thank you.
Lorena Duran

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Letter to George Abbott

The following letter was sent by teacher-librarian Louise Sidley (Glenmarry Elementary, Trail) to Minister of Education George Abbott.

Dear Hon. Abbott,

Is making British Columbia the most literate place in the world a current government priority? I'm getting mixed messages. In this letter, I hope to articulate my bewilderment.

What I do know is that if the school library has adequate teacher-librarian and clerical/technical staffing and is well supplied with information and communication technologies, then the school library program increases students' opportunities to become information literate. (Canadian Association for School Libraries, CASL 2003)

What I do know is school libraries are active learning environments. Under the leadership of a teacher-librarian, working in collaboration with classroom teachers, students develop and practise the information literacy skills and habits of lifelong learners. (CASL, 2003)

What I do know is students with well-equipped school libraries and qualified teacher librarians perform better on achievement tests for reading comprehension and basic research skills. (CASL, 2003.)

What I do know is that although there are more than twenty years of research to support the notion that teacher-librarians affect student achievement, this information is almost unknown outside the school library community. (The Colorado Study, 1993, 2000, 2010)

What I do know is the school library is essential to every long-term strategy for literacy, education, information provision and economic, social and cultural development. As the responsibility of local, regional and national authorities, it must be supported by specific legislation and policies. School libraries must have adequate and sustained funding for trained staff, materials, technologies and facilities." (UNESCO, 1999)

At odds with this unequivocal research is that funding for school libraries across this province remains abysmal. On every count, this province has been falling and continues to fall far below the minimum standards set out by the Canadian Association for School Libraries. (CASL, 2003.)

I have been a teacher since 1983 and a teacher librarian for over ten years, and I feel that it is imperative that I let this government know that their policies and funding formulas not only contravene with research, they jeopardize the literacy success of my students.

With sincere regret, I can not accept this book given by a government that refuses to adequately fund school libraries.

No teacher-librarians = No [school] libraries = No books = Illiterate British Columbians.

Yours truly,

Louise Sidley

Glenmerry Elementary

Our libraries are a great investment in community, learning and literacy. They open doors of opportunity for minds hungry for knowledge and adventure. They are the front lines of the effort to make British Columbia the most literate place in the world.
- Premier Gordon Campbell

At the moment that we persuade a child, any child, to cross that threshold, that magic threshold into a library, we change their lives forever, for the better. It’s an enormous force for good.
- Barack Obama

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Cuts to Education: Loss of Teacher-Librarians and Other Specialist Teachers

The following letter was sent by teacher-librarian and BCTLA Executive member Chris Evans (Tyee Elementary, Vancouver) to MLA Robin Austin.

I'm a teacher-librarian at a small elementary school in Vancouver. Over the past 10 years of cutbacks to education, the teacher-librarian position at my school has been cut from 4 days per week to 1.94 days per week. I'm not worried that I have lost time - I haven't. I have taught ESL and Prep (relieving teachers during their Preparation time) to fill the time I used to teach in the library. But I am very worried about what the loss of library programming in my school, and in the province, means to students in this information age.

Some people think kids don't need a school library - they can use the internet. While half of my job is promoting reading and literacy (a provincial goal), the other half is teaching information skills, including how to use the internet effectively. Research shows that while kids are great at playing with technology, they are not great at using it to find and evaluate information. I teach them how to identify what it is they need to know, how to search for it, how to sift through the millions of results they get, and how to evaluate a website to see if it is reliable and useful for what they need to know. I also teach them what else to use besides Google (what? is there something other than Google?).

Some people think kids don't need a school library - they can use the public library. I love the public library, and use it all the time. I take primary classes to the public library and help them get library cards, and I take Grade 7s to the public library and help them learn to use the library's databases. But the public library is no substitute for the school library. They have neither the targeted selection nor the quantity of books necessary to support the curriculum, nor do they have the flexibility to support teachers with materials to teach the curriculum. The 22 children's books on Ancient Egypt that our local branch has is an amazing number, but they won't go far in a class of 30 students. Especially if 5 students hit the library the first day of the assignment and take 4 books each! Too bad if a class in another school is studying Egypt at the same time, and there are at least 5 schools nearby.

Research shows that a well-stocked, well-staffed school library with a trained teacher-librarian results in higher achievement across the board, not just in reading. After a decade of cuts, teacher-librarian time across the province has been cut by 1/3. Very few schools have full-time teacher-librarians, and many schools have none at all. Don't blame the school boards, who have had to make a Sophie's Choice, year after year, regarding which programs to cut to meet their budget shortfalls. These cuts are entirely due to the stripping of the teachers' contract, and the resulting stripping of over $300 million a year in funding to the boards.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

What Good is a School Librarian?

The following letter was sent by teacher-librarian Holly Lloyd (Marlborough Elementary, Burnaby) to her MLA last week. In it, Holly describes working and learning conditions in her school library and school, including student and teacher access to technology.

I am the teacher-librarian at École Marlborough in Burnaby. We have a student population of approximately 1000 children. That is 500 kindergarten to grade three students and 500 grade 4 -7 students, 500 French immersion students and 500 English program students. I am full time and I see 40 divisions EVERY WEEK. One thousand children come through my door each week. I am unique in the school as I am the ONLY staff member who has contact with every child on a weekly basis.

Every week I read a story to 20 primary classes. We work on finding books that are “just right” or “le meilleur livre pour moi” to ensure the students are borrowing books at their own reading level. Home reading is an important part of learning to read because if you want to get better you have to practice. Finding a book that is a challenge without being too hard is a critical component of this and I am uniquely suited to the task as I know the collection of 35,000 books better than the classroom teachers. I read books from the collection every day and I work with the materials every day.

I run a “Reading Club” for the school which requires them to read every night for 15 minutes. I promote, distribute and collect the forms, and reward the students, staff and parents who participate. We have assemblies where the main focus is the Reading Club and our mascot, “Reading Rodent” makes guest appearances to encourage participation. We post staff forms in the hallway and I visit each and every staff member to encourage them to participate as well in order to reinforce the importance of reading at home.

Every week I see 20 intermediate classes. I book talk books, introduce reading contests, highlight authors and series of interest, and meander around showcasing various titles to students I think might be interested. I ask students for recommendations of titles they would like to have and I make sure to buy those immediately and go back to find those students to give them the title they requested. I make personal visits to the classroom to hand deliver titles I know certain students have been waiting for.

That is only half my job however, because although I am in a school of 1000, the only hard-wired set of computers we have is the thirteen in the library. Each classroom has two but if a teacher wants to do anything with more than a few children, they have to come to the library. Last year, we finally bought two carts of 15 wireless computers but those are very difficult to get to work properly. So, at any given time I usually have two classes in the library and sometimes I also have stragglers from various other classrooms looking for a “quiet” place to meet.

I work with staff to build research projects where I will provide and introduce various resources on a topic, help students with note-taking strategies, work on transferring of notes into paragraphs/finished product and help students understand why they need to and how to reference their resources. The staff and I also work together on classroom literature projects where I will take a group or two of students to work with in order to alleviate the pressure of six separate novel studies happening at the same time in the classroom. Because I know the library collection and I know the programs the staff offers their students, I can ensure the literature and internet resources they need are available at the reading levels appropriate for their grades.

I also work on whole school activities because I see every child. We have created a whole school rainbow where each staff member and student wrote one way they helped someone else, created a valentine tree of things we liked about each other, and have generated our own “Jazz-o-pedia” of facts collected by the intermediate population to support our Jazz Club. These activities help to create a community feel and to pull together a vast population. They remind us that we are caring people working together for common good. It may not be what one expects of the role of librarian but when you stop dictating what a teacher may or may not do, you allow them the freedom of bringing something new and exciting to a school. Qualified, dedicated professionals bring more than just academic skills to the job. We create a community of academic, emotional and social support for neighbourhoods of children and families.

I share the load and support the teachers in planning, execution and assessment of students. I support the students by providing a resource for reading, literature and in the greater picture, help them to learn how to learn, a skill that will stand them in good stead throughout their lives. The research (see below) shows that schools which have a full time school library media specialist score higher on the standardized tests the government feels so proud of. It’s time to recognize the value of the teacher-librarian and bring them back into schools across B.C.

Two leading U.S. researchers in the field offer this arresting conclusion: “In research done in nine states and over 3300 schools since 1999, the positive impact of the school library program is consistent. [They] make a difference in academic achievement. If you were setting out a balanced meal for a learner, the school library media program would be part of the main course, not the butter on the bread.” (Lance and Loertscher, 2003)

Holly Lloyd