Joanna Marek | Movers & Shakers 2019 – Educators

“I see librarians as change agents, and…that [is] very powerful,” says Joanna Marek, who for the last 11 years has been thinking of ways to impact students in their early years. As an elementary school librarian, she gives children the foundation to reach their potential.

Joanna Marek

CURRENT POSITION

Library Media Specialist, Spring Avenue Elementary School, LaGrange, IL

DEGREE

MA, Educational Administration, 2012; MLIS, 2008; both Dominican University, IL

FOLLOW

@joannammarek; primarysourcepairings.com

Photo by Jamilla Yipp Photography

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Summer Strong

“I see librarians as change agents, and…that [is] very powerful,” says Joanna Marek, who for the last 11 years has been thinking of ways to impact students in their early years. As an elementary school librarian, she gives children the foundation to reach their potential.

“Joanna is determined to meet and work with as many students and teachers [as possible] on any given day....[She] consults with outside professionals and authors to uncover even more resources,” says nominator Elizabeth Webb Peterman, retired principal, consultant to LaGrange School District 105, IL, and Marek’s former boss at Spring Avenue Elementary School.

Marek also spends time after school with students working on the school newspaper. It’s unusual for an elementary school to have a newspaper, but Marek believes covering news helps kids develop critical thinking skills, as well as learn how to work together. This year, 68 students are in the newspaper club, 20 percent of the 340 children who attend Spring Avenue.

Marek doesn’t just work with students during the school year. To combat the summer slide, she championed the CONNECT summer learning program, which gives students and their families access to school libraries over the summer. “Joanna facilitated, planned, and implemented the…program for the entire district, focusing on open library times for all the schools to [ensure] opportunities for students from all demographics,” says Webb Peterman.

The CONNECT program has been a resounding success. “Over the last eight years, well over a thousand young readers visited our summer-open libraries…. Last summer, over 100 families participated in reading Janet B. Pascal’s What Was the Great Chicago Fire?,” Marek says. “A parent shared with me that the reading of this book inspired their whole summer and motivated their entire family to do more reading together.”

Marek also supports teachers. After attending a Library of Congress Summer Institute workshop in 2013 on teaching with primary sources, Marek created the Primary Source Pairings website, an online resource for educators that promotes visual literacy. The website lists the Illinois state book awards and American Library Association book awards and pairs each with a primary source image (often a historical photo), along with a plot summary and questions for classroom discussion.

In the future, Marek won’t be straying too far from the work she loves. Says Marek, “Strong school library programs promote a strong library culture in our country.”

 

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