March 29, 2013
This news release is shared on behalf of the Alaska Association of School Librarians. Congratulations to College Gate Elementary School Librarian Dona Helmer.
For Immediate Release
Alaska Association of School Librarians
The Alaska Association of School Librarians Announce 2013 School Librarian of the Year
The Alaska Association of School Librarians (AkASL) held their annual conference in Valdez from March 22-24 and announced Dona Helmer of College Gate Elementary School in Anchorage as the School Librarian of the Year. The School Librarian of the Year is an award that has been given out annually since 1985. This exemplary librarian promotes the development of independent lifetime readers and learners, is an integral part of the educational team, and exemplifies professional involvement by sharing expertise with colleagues both locally and around the state. Each school year, administrators are encouraged to nominate a school librarian who has been a help and inspiration to them and their school.
Dona Helmer, the 2013 School Librarian of the Year thinks outside the box by teaching children that the entire world of information is their library. The school library becomes a preparation for the real world where they learn rules on how to find information, how to pose and answer questions, and are allowed to explore. The library is not a place but a state of mind—
This is a pretty hefty challenge for the students of College Gate Elementary library. It is here that Helmer orchestrates her program. She has a broad knowledge of the curriculum and facilitates cross-grade level research. She collaborates with and supports teachers through targeted instruction, gathering resources, and managing special programs.
Books are a big part of Helmer's life and students know this. She writes grants so that she can give books to students to take home, and she often includes her own money. Each year, Helmer creates a grade level summer reading list and has the local children's librarians visit and talk to students. She is always trying to find ways to work with local public librarians.
At College Gate everybody reads! Helmer brings in other people like the janitor and lunch workers to talk about their favorite books as a child. She wants every student to understand that reading is not just something you do in school. Some of the reading programs Helmer facilitates to get students to read are: Turkey Trot, Jingle Jog, Skype with an Author, Read to Some Bunny Month, Pizza and Poetry Month, Research Counts Month, the Family Winter Reading Club and much more.
At the National Level, Helmer serves on the American Library Association (ALA) Reference Books Bulletin Advisory Board and writes reviews for them. She has been a member of both the Newbery and Caldecott Award committees, the most prestiegious awards in children's literature. This year she is running for membership on the Siebert Award Committee for ALA. Helmer has served on the International Reading Association's book and poetry award committees and the National Council for the Social Studies Carter G. Woodson history book award committee.
Locally, Helmer is a board member of AkASL and has served as member of the Battle of the Books selection group committee for grades 3-4, is a board member on the Alaska Library Association's Authors to Alaska committee and is the vice president of the Cook Inlet Literacy Council. In the Anchorage School District, Helmer is a member of both the Library Resource Committee and the Language Arts Curriculum Committee.
Helmer is a master of making connections and gathering support. When a new principal started at College Gate two years ago, she brought a copy of the national school library guidelines, shared her annual library report and outlined the potential library program. Principal Darrell Bernsten states, "No other librarian has ever taken the time to explain twenty-first century libraries and learners to me."
Helmer has plans and dreams for the library, but she doesn't sit and wait. She goes out and makes change happen. Congratulations Dona Helmer, AkASL School Librarian of 2013!