Being responsible for the smooth operation of five elementary school libraries would seem like enough of a job for one person, with little time for much else. While Media Specialist Jennifer Johnson manages the necessities of running a library - book ordering, technology maintenance, book referrals for teachers – it’s the extra effort she makes to spark students’ passion for books that has earned her the attention of her colleagues.
Jennifer has been with the District since 2008 and has served at nearly every building. She is always thinking of creative ways to keep students engaged with books. Her desire to share her book knowledge and passion for books must be in her blood – Jennifer’s mother is a professor of Library Science.
Jennifer has teamed with fellow Media Specialists Kevin Costello and April Hoy to create storytelling sessions that bring books to life. She, April and Kevin dress as a book’s characters and act out the plot.
Says her nominator and Lincoln teacher Kate Bunsey: “Students beg for return visits after participating in these half hour sessions of lively story-telling units that match the curriculum!”
Jennifer collaborates with any teacher who asks to create lessons and provide library resources that support the general curriculum. That collaboration is what ignites Jennifer’s creative juices.
“A lot of what I do I couldn’t do without other people’s ideas,” she says, and adds that “working with such amazing people” is one of her favorite parts of her job.
Jennifer’s impact does not stop at the library doors. She also runs a lunchtime book club at Horace Mann, supervises the student-produced news shows at Grant, Roosevelt and Harrison and is a member of Horace Mann’s Girls on the Run team.
She’s says one of her favorite times of the year in December when she dresses as “Super Reader Lady” with her cape and Wonder Woman pjs to hand out books to Roosevelt kindergarteners to take home over winter break. “The thrill of a kid receiving a new book” never gets old, she says.
It seems she’s everywhere sharing her enthusiasm for literature. When it comes to books, says Kate, “Ms. Johnson is your Go-To person, east to west across our school district.”
The school secretary at any building is the public’s first impression of a school. Lucky for Garfield Middle School, Secretary Leah Kapsalis has been making a great impression the last 11 years.
No matter what issue is thrown her way – and there are many at a middle school – Leah handles it with aplomb.
“Leah's hard work and professionalism shines through as she handles constant disruptions and still gets the job done with accuracy and efficiency,” said Garfield Principal Mark Walter.
Leah’s nominator, Head Custodian Don Richmond agrees: “I've watched Mrs. "K" again and again deal with all sorts of issues with parents, students and staff in a kind and professional way. She handles things with understanding, sensitivity and kindness,” Don said.
When you are a school secretary, you have to be a master juggler. Taking care of tasks such as preparing daily attendance logs and mass mailings must be done while answering the phone every few minutes and buzzing in visitors. She also is responsible for preparing substitutes for staff absences. It can be hard to keep track of everything when it’s all going on at once.
Leah, who joined the District in 2008 and Garfield in 2011, manages by prioritizing her tasks by deadlines. “I try to manage my time effectively and writing everything down in lists,” she says.
Her calm demeanor sets the tone for those who come into the school. “She’s always ready with a smile,” according to Don.
Although much of a school secretary’s work is done behind the scenes, Principal Walter says Leah’s work is “invaluable to the whole Garfield community and greatly appreciated by all. “
According to Don, life would be better for everyone if they took a page from Leah’s book: “Leah is what the world needs more of - kind, mindful people.”