The job of the 21st century school librarian is multi-faceted. Among other roles, today’s librarian is a research assistant, teacher, staff developer, technology resource, and curator. Calvert High library media specialist Donna Mignardi wouldn’t have it any other way.
Ms. Mignardi is an academic at heart. She thrives on teaching students to conduct research for history and English classes and especially enjoys collaborating with classroom teachers to plan and teach lessons. She teaches students to seek out reliable sources and to cite them accurately. Need to know the best database to use or the proper MLA format? Check with Ms. Mignardi.
But the Calvert High library isn’t just for traditional research. An avid reader herself, Ms. Mignardi wants her students to enjoy a good book. A bookshelf at the library entrance is decorated as a “Read Box”—a play on the popular Red Boxes where one can rent videos—and displays engaging books to draw students into the library. Young adult fiction shares the shelves with literary classics. New titles scroll across a flat screen TV. There’s a special section devoted to the nominees for the annual Black Eyed Susan Book Awards, and Calvert High students vote for their favorites every year. She sets aside titles for her frequent flyers who stop in weekly to check out a stack of books.
Recently Ms. Mignardi has taken advantage of the opportunities afforded by the one-hour lunch period at Calvert High. Students eat during either the first or second half of the period and spend the other half of the period meeting with teachers, participating in clubs and activities, or doing homework. A core group of students gravitates to the library. Ms. Mignardi wanted to engage the students with interesting activities, so she turned to makerspaces, which are places where people gather to design and create. Makerspaces are popping up in libraries across the school district, and Ms. Mignardi has embraced the trend. Her library includes centers for electrical snap circuits, origami, computer animation, and even makey makeys (devices that can allow virtually any object to interact with a computer) for the more technically inclined students. The activities incorporate engineering, artistic, and critical thinking skills as students create and solve problems. It’s a chance for students to engage in self-directed learning while they are having fun with their friends.
One of Ms. Mignardi favorite parts of her job is collaborating with her colleagues. She plans to work with staff to expand Calvert High’s participation in the “Maryland Hour of Code,” a contest sponsored by the Maryland State Department of Education to spark student interest in computer science and computational thinking. Last year, she collaborated with one teacher to introduce basic coding to his students. This year, she has plans for 100% participation among staff and students. She wants to give them a taste of future career and educational possibilities, whether they are using a computer to write code or colored beads to learn coding patterns. Ms. Mignardi has the tenacity to reach her goal of 100% involvement.
Ms. Mignardi’s respect for her students as individuals is evident. In addition to the traditional academic materials, computers, and makerspaces, she has puzzles and games because she recognizes that sometimes students just need a break. In the corner of the library is a charging station where students can plug in their personal devices; she understands the reality of being a teenager in a digital world. Her library is a happy, welcoming place for the Calvert High community.
“Shine the Light” is a monthly feature about educators in Calvert County Public Schools.