Football, school libraries, and Ferguson, MO: What’s the connection?

by Kate MacMillan

Last year I wrote about the opening of school and the inherent craziness of textbooks and class schedules. But this year I decided to write about high school football.

Now, you may ask what prompted such an odd choice for a library blog?

In truth there are two or more reasons, but perhaps the one closest to my heart was the McCluer High School’s football team’s response to the recent turmoil in Ferguson, Missouri. Rather than involving themselves in potentially dangerous situations, they listened to their coach and decided to take their frustrations to the field. Mario McDonald, the McCluer coach, reminded his players to avoid stereotypes and stay focused on the sport and school. This message, along with the support of the St Louis Rams, seems to have been heard and appreciated.

So what does football have to do with school libraries?

This brings me to my second reason . . . the Athletes as Readers and Leaders program, which uses student athletes as role models for younger students. Napa Valley USD implemented this program in response to a Stanford Study, which showed children who play sports are less likely to become obese. The report also revealed how overweight children are often too shy to join a sport. With this in mind, NVUSD librarians and coaches implemented Athletes as Readers and Leaders to introduce elementary students to high school athletes. They knew it would be a success with the students, but were surprised it had such an impact on the players. Football coach Troy Mott said, “I don’t know who gained more from this experience, the players or the kids.”

The program has been replicated throughout the country and was chosen as a California School Library exemplary program and recently recognized by California’s superintendent of education. Like the players in Ferguson, student athletes from every sport have the potential to improve not only physical fitness in young students but also academic achievement.

To learn more about Athletes as Readers and Leaders, please visit the CSLA blog at

Good luck to all the high school football teams and a special wish to all of the Ferguson players!

Kate MacMillan

Kate MacMillan


How Effective School Librarians Foster Digital Literacy

by Jen Wodlinger

Until recently, I was afraid to fail.

As a teacher-librarian for the past twenty years, I lived in fear of disappointing teachers who relied upon my expertise as a collaborative teaching partner. On more than one occasion I worried I had damaged the learning process for my students when a technology project did not go as planned, or a project-based learning experience didn’t end up meeting the expectations we desired.

In retrospect, failing was a good thing. As we reflect on our experiences, mistakes, successes, and yes, “bombed” projects, we can use those experiences to enrich our lives and our careers. I came to this conclusion recently after receiving a Master’s Degree in Innovative Learning from Touro University. The knowledge I gained around brain-based learning, student-centered instruction, new technologies, and learning theory has given me self-assurance when working with teachers on collaborative projects, thus providing me the confidence to pursue a leadership role in my school district.

This knowledge reinforced something that I already knew: creating an atmosphere of equity for diverse learners in any school setting is important. The Innovative Learning program at Touro University provided me with awareness around the struggle English language learners and students with diverse backgrounds experience at school. As a result, I’m more vigilant in my practice of recognizing these students’ needs.

illustration for Jen W's piece
Reflecting on this past year, my head swims when I think about landing a new job in a new state, qualifying for a California credential, pursuing a Master’s Degree, passing the CBEST, turning sixty, and last-but-not-least, surviving an afternoon at the DMV and passing my driver’s test.

What’s next? Good question. I’m not finished learning, and I feel empowered in my ability to pursue whatever comes my way.

In the meantime, if you are ever interested in pursuing further learning, I suggest checking into an online program. Attending class from the comfort of your living room is very relaxing, fun, and enlightening!

The poster above may provide a little food for thought on the power we, as effective school librarians, possess. We can create lifelong learning experiences for students that will give them the skills to pursue a successful school and work career.

Jennifer Wodlinger

Jennifer Wodlinger