Being an educator for K-5 students in the midst of a pandemic comes with many challenges that require patience and the ability to adapt quickly. Northern Michigan University alumna Suzanna Schroeder (‘95 BS, ‘99 MA) is the library media specialist for Brown Deer Elementary School in Wisconsin. She has been coming up with new initiatives to keep her students informed and engaged.
Her school is conducting classes in a hybrid format, meaning each cohort meets in person two days per week and virtually for the remainder of the time. Because of this, she takes Wednesdays to read to the students seven times in 15-minute sessions in order to give the grade level teachers time to plan together. She also added a library page to her school's central website, where she now has it filled with learning and engagement opportunities.
When the school moved from a completely online format to the hybrid format in September, Schroeder initially provided mobile library services to all of the grade levels in her school. However, with time constraints and the need to follow the Center for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, visiting 14 classrooms twice a week became unrealistic.
“We had to pivot,” she said. “I held a training session to teach teachers how to use our online catalog so that they could request physical copies of books. It was available previously, but has become a key resource now.
“I also offered to pop in to both virtual and in-person classrooms in order to teach the 3rd through 5th grade students how to find ebooks and audiobooks, and how to place books on hold so that my coworker and I could deliver them.”
The frequency of books deliveries increased from one day per week to four after the schedule change. Schroeder had to fulfill a larger volume of requests from both students who have remained with a virtual-only format, whose parents regularly pick up materials from the school, and the in-person hybrid learners.
The phrase “getting crafty” has taken on a whole new meaning for Schroeder. She has been live streaming four days per week, incorporating library skills with design thinking, crafting and building. She and her coworker came up with crafts for the kids to do from home, while also thinking about accessibility across households.
“What's really important for us is that we had to make sure that we were giving the kids enough options,” Schroeder said. “It's unreasonable to assume that all of these kids are going to have all of these different things at their fingertips.”
As a way to increase accessibility, Schroeder records each live stream session and posts it on the library website so students who missed it can go back and view it.
“My goal is to show my Brown Deer Elementary School community that I am accessible, that I love their children, and that I will do whatever it takes to create a space, virtual or physical, where kids can feel safe, nurtured and inspired to create. Libraries are so much more than a place to hold dusty books; they are a door through which anyone can walk, grow and soar.”
From making pine cones into Christmas trees to allowing her students to escape through her stories to them, Schroeder has taken on this COVID-19 impacted semester with grace and innovation.
Listed below are Schroeder's K-5 reading suggestions for children over the winter break.
● Flora & Ulysses The Illuminated Adventure by Kate DiCamillo
● The Magician's Elephant, also by Kate DiCamillo
● The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznak
● Wishtree by Katherine Applegate
● Insignifiant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling
● Every Soul a Star by Wendy Moss
● Blended by Sharon M. Draper
● Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly
● Projekt 1065 by Alad Gratz
● Ghost series by Jason Reynolds
● The Baby-Sitter's Club
● Dog Man
● Swing It Sunny series
● Anne of Green Gables by Mariah Marsden
● Stargazing by Jen Wang
● White Bird by R.J. Palacio
● New Kid by Jerry Craft
● Sam & Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett
● Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett
● The Bad Seed by Jory John
● The Good Egg by Jory John
● The Cool Bean by Jory John
● Mother Bruce series by Ryan T. Higgins
● We Don't Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins
● Hello, Lighthouse by Sophie Blackall
● Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood by F. Isabel Campoy & Theresa Howell
● Drawn Together by Minh Le
● A Map Into the World by Kao Kalia Yang
● Sulwe by Lupita Nyong'o
● The Only Child by Guojing
This story was prepared by Lauren Rotundo, student employee in NMU Marketing and Communications.