EL teachers work alongside many stakeholders. They work with students of course. But they also work with general education teachers, instructional coaches, special education teachers, administrators, and more. However, one lesser known, yet powerful partnership is the one between the EL teacher and the library media specialist.
What do EL teachers and library media specialists have in common? These stories from the field bring a reality to the question.
One beautiful example comes from Sheila Eagan and Ms. Bird. Sheila is an ENL (English as a New Language) teacher in Rochester City School District in NYS and Mrs. Bird is the school library media specialist. Sheila shares that their collaboration has been supportive to her as a newer teacher. She has been able to learn from Ms. Bird and her experience. “I think we really undervalue the importance of mentorship and collaboration between teachers of varying levels of experience,” says Sheila. Not only does Ms. Bird keep a diverse selection of books for students and offer great book suggestions, but she is also able to share lesson ideas and resources with Sheila. As the librarian, Ms. Bird also works on various culture and community building events at the campus level such as family engagement, spirit week, and field trips. These events are central to creating an inclusive environment. The partnership between Sheila and Ms. Bird has enhanced families’ and students’ success.
Rhonda Gadino, an ELL teacher in Kansas, expresses how she and the library media specialist at her campus “work as a team to make sure the library is full of multicultural books.” This is an important job and teamwork here makes a greater impact. They have been collaborating for the past four years to ensure that all students are represented and even include bilingual books in their shelves. Rhonda shares that the librarian is a “valuable” part of the ELL team.
In Florida, Jody Nolf and the library media specialist at her campus team up to support middle school ELs. They actually share an office space together! Jody, the ESOL Coordinator, calls the library media specialist a “real advocate for equity.” They often discuss students’ needs and campus resources. The library media specialist has used media funds to build a more diverse library selection including teen books in Spanish. They collaborate on ways to get the community involved and together they build better learning experiences for their students. Together they are a powerful team!
Lisa Manikas, is an EL Program Specialist that serves teachers and students in one of the largest divisions in Virginia. Prior to her current role, she was a library media specialist. Having these lenses has allowed Lisa to assist librarians as well as teachers in her county with diverse book selections and appropriate resources to meet students’ needs. She builds lists of books for teachers to use in the classroom as well as books & resources that need to be ordered. In Professional Learning Committees (PLCs) Lisa finds that she’s also able to connect teachers with librarians to collaborate in an effort to support ELs.
ENL Teacher Ashley Wong, and the campus library media specialist, Karen Homer, not only work side by side to ensure their diverse student population of 5th -7th ELs finds themselves and their lived experiences within the library shelves, but they also co-advise the school’s Cultural Connections Club. This club aims to bring students together and shine a light on diversity and inclusion, teaching students about one another and making connections. The group gathers weekly to hold discussions and participates in activities. What an amazing opportunity to build connections and value students!
It’s exciting to find that stories like these are not rare, but I know they will also inspire many educators to think more intentionally about the power of partnerships. The symbiotic relationship between EL teachers and library media specialists can be a truly powerful source for our students and families.
Here are some practical ways that EL teachers can partner with librarians.
These are easy ways librarians can connect with EL teachers/EL students.
Back to the question asked early in the article...What do EL teachers and library media specialists have in common? Maybe it’s not about what they have in common but more about what they each have to offer, balancing each other out, much like the ancient Chinese philosophy of Yin and Yang. The combination is what creates the power. Like most successful partnerships, each brings its own important qualities to the relationship and the matchup is beneficial to students.
If you have a story about the partnership with your EL teacher or library media specialist, please share it with us!