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Librarians win awards for growing digital resources, school communities


School Library Journal honored two public school librarians in Hawaii this year: Michelle Colte (Hale Kula El) and Denise Sumida (Pearl Harbor El). What do they have in common? Using technology to promote literacy and community, with a focus on student support and learning.

​​​​​​​2014 is going down as Hawaii's "Year of the School Librarian," thanks to recognition from the profession's trade journal.

This year, the School Library Journal bestowed honors upon two Hawaii public school librarians: Hale Kula Elementary's Michelle Colte, named the publication's School Librarian of the Year, and Pearl Harbor Elementary's Denise Sumida, honored with the Buzz Award, recognizing innovative school library programs that promote digital learning and a love of reading. View profiles of the winners and the awards on the SLJ website:

  • SLJ Librarian of the Year: Michelle Colte — VIEW
  • SLJ Buzz Award: Denise Sumida — VIEW

Michelle Colte, Hale Kula Elementary

Thanks to her cross-grade efforts to galvanize literacy (digital and print) among a strongly transient student population (99 percent of Hale Kula's students are military dependents), Colte was named the School Librarian of the Year, winning $2,500 in Scholastic Library Publishing materials and $2,500 in cash, along with the Librarian of the Year title.

Colte leverages the power of libraries to create a school community ohana with engaging reading programs, family-friendly events (book fairs, contests) and a resource-intensive website that keeps parents informed about class projects — she said the weekly website update is the community "refrigerator" with postings of projects, photos, videos and links. (Below, Hale Kula's library blog.)

Colte has been a champion of computer science at the school, noting that coding activities have helped engage many struggling students. Her efforts helped net a $10,000 award from Code.org in 2013 to ensure every student participated in Hour of Code. She used the donation to purchase Chromebooks and Nexus 7 tablets.

Principal Jan Iwase noted in her recommendation letter: "Our school has developed a reputation as forward-thinking and a true 21st-century school. That [wouldn't] be the case without Mrs. Colte's involvement and relentless energy and commitment to teaching and learning!"

Colte said, "The greatest joy is seeing students when that light bulb goes off — seeing them empowered, seeing that they've learned something and they're going to go help someone else."

Denise Sumida, Pearl Harbor Elementary

Sumida, who has been at Pearl Harbor El for 13 years, built a library environment that supports and grows young readers, digital researchers, news broadcasters and filmmakers — efforts the Journal agreed was "Buzz Award"-worthy. The award comes with $1,000, plus $1,500 in Brain Hive Bucks for use during the 2014-15 school year.

Preschool to grade 6 students visit the library for collaborative lessons and units, all of which are archived on her library website. These lessons introduce students to online databases, how to navigate text features in nonfiction texts and even zoom in to examine how Pearl Harbor might have been different had the US government been prepared for the attack. When the school leadership identified animal/plant cell standards as one that 4th grade students struggled with on the recent state assessment, Denise teamed with 4th grade classroom teachers and the technology coordinator to address this area of need with accessible images of plant and animal cells in online encyclopedias and interactive sites. Students will analyze the images for similarities and differences, record their observations in a Google Doc and draw their findings using Frames animation software.

​Sumida coordinates the school's Personal Learning Network to help grow digital literacy among teachers (see presentation, above, used to help guide new Pearl Harbor teachers through library services and resources), and as part of the Hawaii Association of School Librarians advocated for librarians statewide to use technology to promote literature. She serves as co-chair of the Nene Committee governing the statewide student readership program, and has been instrumental in promoting the "Nene Jeopardy" competition in which students answer questions about character, plot, and author information via Google Hangouts and WebExes.

As Colte noted in her nomination of Sumida for the award: "She doesn’t fly to school in an invisible jet or don a red, blue and gold leotard, but Pearl Harbor Elementary School’s librarian, Denise Sumida, is definitely 'Wonder Woman.'"

School Library Journal
The School Library Journal aspires to be an accelerator for innovation in schools and public libraries that serve the information, literacy, and technology needs of 21st century children and young adults. SLJ produces resources, services, and reviews that make library and education professionals savvier, and communities stronger.​

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