I just loved being in Vermont. The entire state feels like one big small town and certainly this holds true in the library world where everyone knows everyone else. The state also has a hippie feel with liberal attitudes, green living, same-sex marriage, and the home of Ben and Jerry’s. U-32 Middle and High School, just outside the capital of Montpelier also had that feel. The building itself started out as one of those open-concept schools with no walls. I student-taught in one in the 70’s. But about 11 years ago, the inside was gutted and although some walls were put up, the open atmosphere continues. This includes the openess of students calling all their teachers by their first names. I sort of liked that and it seemed very natural from what I observed.
Dan Greene pulled out all the stops for his school’s celebration with some big names. Katharine Paterson, Newbery award winner (twice!) is actually a personal friend of Dan and his wife and the godmother of their daughter, Katie. Katharine is a warm and lovely woman whom I really enjoyed meeting. She is also a terrific public speaker who read her first published work - a poem about a rat and a cat from her second grade school newspaper which was panned by one of the teachers. Kathrine related that as a the child of missionaries, she had to war donated clothes and she had a British accent when attending 4th grade in North Carolina. But a librarian was a lifesaver and changed her life. Katharine stayed around the entire morning and interacted with everyone there.
Another Vision Tour first was when Governor Peter Shulin showed up. I got to speak to him for a minute before the program and told him it was a first. When he got up to address the crowd of about 400 students and teachers, he said he would not have it any other way. He went on to tell a touching story of his dyslexia and how it was handled in the 60’s - not very sensitively. The principal called he and his parents in and told them young Peter “would never have a professional career because he couldn’t read.” Fortunately for Peter he had a wonderful teacher - one who drove him to her log cabin after school in her Willy’s Jeep and worked with him one on one. She also sent him to the library to choose books and practice his reading. Of course, he went on to great heights and is now the Governor. He said he still has nightmares that he is in a spelling bee - something that had frightened him throughout school. What a brave man to tell that story!
It was great for the students, many who are so unsure of themselves at that age, to hear how these two high profile and successful people overcame obstacles.
Students of course also participated. There were student testimonials, a reading of a “flash fiction” story and videos of book trailers that were produced by students. And another group of students read Katharine Paterson’s new book, Day of the Pelican, and hand-stitched a quilt for a refugee family.
Back at the U-32 Library, I got to browse around and liked what I saw. Dan is all about accessibility so all the book shelves were low, there were magnification readers and touch screen terminals. Kindles, a flip camera, and ipod Nanos were available for check out. It was a very attractive facility and filled with students. The entire facility was warm, welcoming, and well-used.
Dan is another of the Vision Tour school librarians who is National Board Certified. It shows.
Vermont, although #30 on the Vision Tour list of stops, had many firsts - the first governor to attend a ceremony, the first Newbery award winner to attend, the first gift of a flag to fly over the U.S. Capitol and the first quilt made by students for the celebration!
Shown here are school librarians at U-32, Vicky Palmer, me and Dan Greene.
May 11, 2011