St. Paul's CBS Secondary School, Dublin
"Annie has ensured that the library lies at the heart of our school life playing a key role in planning and implementing our literacy and numeracy strategies. She works tirelessly to ensure that our students see reading as not just a school based activity but as something really enjoyable that can enrich their lives beyond the classroom walls. I can say without reservation that she has profoundly enhanced what our school offers to the students."
Patrick McCormack, Principal, St. Paul's CBS.
Annie began work in St. Paul’s CBS - an inner city secondary school in Dublin with 250 boys on the school roll - in November 2008 as part of the JCSP Demonstration Library project. She was given the task of building and developing a new library from scratch. The library is a large, airy, light rectangular room with a selection of computers along one wall, free standing and wall shelving, some comfortable sofas and tables and chairs for class work. The students produced the shelf signs, to personalise the library.
It is open from 8am until 5pm and is in constant use throughout the day. Annie thinks a relaxed atmosphere is really important in encouraging learning to take place and wants students to feel comfortable and safe. Annie is involved in creating lessons as well as contributing to teachers’ suggestions. She believes that learning should be fun. She often works with students by practising/developing mental arithmetic or playing Articulate to strengthen vocabulary.
The library is promoted through the school website, school twitter page, the library twitter page, JCSP library website, posters around school, and is open for parents on parents’ evenings. There are posters in classrooms promoting reading and numeracy and their importance. Outside the library is a ‘Read Wall’ where front covers of books read during the year are posted up. At the start of the academic year, Annie surveys staff and students so that she can purchase appropriate resources and to ensure there are books to suit everyone’s tastes on the shelves.
Annie addresses students on their first day with a chat and discussion on the library, which includes how to search for information and internet safety. However, the main feeder primary is next door and Annie has ample opportunity to see the pupils during a weekly slot in the library so the majority of students entering the school are already familiar with the library and how it integrates into their school day.
Annie teaches information skills and her impact on teaching and learning is measured through improved student reading ages and exam scores. Attendance and behaviour has dramatically improved since the library opened and there are only a couple of non-readers in her school now. Annie is proud that students are now independent in their learning, can research by themselves and are happy in school. She ensures every student in her school has a book in their bag so reading is always available to them if they have a spare minute in the day.
Pupils told the judging panel: "The library is the epicentre of the school and Annie is like a friend."
There are always events running in the library such as Writer In Residence, Word Millionaire, book reviews, pen pals, school newspaper (Brunner Bugle), debating, chess, Flashmasters and board games to mention a few. Annie has lots of outside projects like the JAFAs (film awards), performances of raps written by the students in library workshops for World Poetry Day and Culture Night. She arranges visits and outings, for example, students recently enjoyed a trip to the National Library of Ireland and Butler’s Chocolates. Annie supports World Book Night and World Book Day, runs DEAR (Drop Everything And Read) and homework club. She annually runs a ‘One Book, One Community’ project to encourage everyone in the community to get reading.
Librarianship wasn’t Annie’s original chosen career path but it happened to find her on her life travels and so here she is in 2015 in what she calls ‘a thriving hive of activity’. Outside of library life, Annie has a great interest in all things sports related, especially in cycling and having never been a runner, has set herself the challenge of completing a number duathlons this year and completing Ireland’s infamous Wicklow 100. She weaves her way through the Dublin traffic on the way to work every morning, on what her students call the ‘smallest racing bike in the world EVER’. Given her love of cycling it goes hand in hand with enjoying the fresh air of the outdoors. She enjoys reading and watching films, and keeping up to date with current affairs. And in her spare time she works for Ireland’s Center for Talented Youth as an instructor in all things maths and strategy related, imparting her nerdish game theory knowledge to the highly gifted young people of Ireland.
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