It’s the Journey: Even if I don’t win this Challenge, I am the richer for entering

November 9, 2014 Follett Learning

by Oletta Branstiter, Sue Crouch Intermediate School, Fort Worth, TX


“Preach the good news. Use words if necessary.” – St. Francis of Assisi.

School libraries are neglected places nowadays. Most in my school district are staffed by overworked, underpaid Media Specialists, expected to be the full-time Computer Lab Aide as well as emergency substitute and cafeteria monitor for paraprofessional pay. So, when I snagged my position at Sue Crouch Intermediate in Fort Worth, TX, I felt blessed!

When Ms. Bland interviewed me for the job, she told me teachers were begging for a full-time attendant in the Library. I showed her my 1901 stereoscope and 1906 San Francisco earthquake stereographs to demonstrate my educational philosophy: giving students at least two perspectives lets them step inside the lesson.(A stereoscope is a device for viewing a stereoscopic pair of separate images, depicting left-eye and right-eye views of the same scene, as a single three-dimensional image.)

Branstiter's 1901 stereoscope

Branstiter’s 1901 stereoscope

Having the time to do a job well speaks volumes. My co-workers voted me Campus Teaching Assistant of the Year in 2010 and 2012. I also won the Crowley School District October Heartbeat Award in 2012.These acknowledgements gave me the platform to preach the word! “School Libraries are relevant!!” When Dan Powell, the school superintendent, and Board of Trustees attended the award ceremonies, I made sure they heard the good news: when a creative person is given the opportunity to do their job well, students make priceless and meaningful connections to curriculum, and discover that learning is fun.

This is why I am entering the Follett Challenge. I want to spread the message as far and wide as I can! As an English major and amateur writer, the essays were fairly easy to accomplish. At first, it seemed the topics were redundant, but then I realized that a dynamic learning program needs various, overlapping criteria to describe it fully. And, by being forced to dig a little deeper into what I do, I got the thrill of realizing that I don’t facilitate my program just because it keeps me motivated and curious, but because it really does help students make discernable cognitive connections!

I must admit, the video requirement made me pause. I am not technologically savvy at all. I don’t have a videographer’s eye. I’m self contained and self sufficient here in my Library World, used to relying only on myself. When I mentioned my trepidation about the video requirement to a co-worker whom I had invited to be interviewed on camera, she got all excited, offering to compile and mix a video for me – I just needed to send her the photos, music and video clips. If I didn’t have a good argument for fulfilling the “collaboration” part of the Follett Challenge before, I DO NOW!!

Interviewing parents, students and other staff members is an invaluable gift! Even if I don’t win this Challenge, I am the richer for entering. I chose specific rubric questions for each person I intended to interview, and was slightly astonished when they would use the question as a mere starting point for what they gained from my educational program. I was seeing it from their perspective. Now, they were providing the stereoscope and letting me step into the picture! I was learning in 3D.


Oletta Branstiter

Oletta Branstiter

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