Newcomer of the Year- Thank you, RHS!


Yesterday I was honored by the Ryan faculty staff. They awarded me the “Newcomer of the Year” for my hard work at the Ryan Library Makerspace! It is such an amazing honor, but I was so extremely touched to hear my principal’s comments because I realized that he knows what I do and why I do it.

“You know how sometimes a new invention comes out and you think. Oh I could’ve made that. Well, this newcomer showed me that our students are consumers, but we need to do more than that. We need to get our students to become creators.”

I can’t remember his exact wording after that, but he said something along the lines of how we need our students to be creators of things, but even more importantly we need creators of ideas.  
It’s been an amazing school year and I’m so happy that the Ryan Raiders are so supportive. I’m even more excited to see what the years will bring as our kids expand their thinking.

After the breakfast I was able to visit my daughter’s local elementary school for career day and share with 1st graders what it means to be a maker, teacher, and librarian. I loved what Mr. Reeves said (and I’m still trying to remember it word for word!) so much that I tried to use a lot of what he said when I spoke with the 7 year olds at the elementary.

I made sure to tell them that as a high school librarian I teach kids to love reading, but I also teach kids how to research and try to solve problems. Not just personal things, but we can research community problems and try to solve them too because it’s our world and we can make it better. I also teach my high schoolers how to think like an inventor by learning how things work and how to make things themselves. Plus, I mentioned to my amazing audience that I am an author and showed them some of the projects that Aaron and I made for our book, along with a zombie paper circuit finger puppet I made after hacking my friend Bev Ball’s super amazing instructions.

The first-graders said, “So, you’re an inventor?”

“Oh, I’ve never thought of myself as that.” (I always call myself a maker- not an inventor.)

When I showed them paper circuits they said, “Cool, it’s like science and technology!” To which I excitedly replied…. “Yes, I love to combine science, technology, and art to make new or cool stuff.”  During the Q&A, they asked if we could make something today. It’s too bad our time was too short.

I told the 1st graders that there is awesomeness locked inside of all of us. And I truly believe that every student has amazing ideas, sometimes we just have to work to help them unlock it. (Last year Jay Silver told my 6th graders this and I found it so empowering and so true! Our kids need to hear it more often.) I made them all shout, “We are Awesome!” at the end of my talk because 1st graders are awesome at yelling in unison!

The best part of the day, was my own little sweetie hugging on me and telling me, “Thank you for coming to my school, mommy!”



Advocating for School Libraries- Movers and Shakers 2016

I was extremely honored this week to be recognized along with four other teacher librarians as a Library Journal Mover and Shaker for the class of 2016.

Graves 1final

Photo by Michael J. Madsen

This distinction is awarded to librarians who according to Library Journal, “(are) committed to providing excellent service and shaping the future of libraries.” The 2016 class has 54 members who come from all walks of librarianship!

It is so exciting to be distinguished among this amazing class of librarian professionals and join the Movers and Shakers before me whom Rebecca T. Miller, the Editorial Director of Library Journal and School library Journal points out are “talented professionals who are committed, passionate, and invigorated—each alone and all together transforming the library world and the communities it impacts for the better.” 

I was selected because of my commitment to the library profession, my leadership, and my innovative techniques at transforming traditional libraries into bustling library makerspaces.

From the article: “Colleen Graves has made her mark developing top-notch Maker spaces at Lamar Middle School in Flower Mound, TX, and her current school, Ryan High School, in Denton, as well as lesson plans and other resources applicable to many Makerspaces. Through her Makerspace, Graves has connected not only with her students but with other educators as well. A conversation between one of her classes and the staff at MaKey MaKey led her to write a suite of lessons for teachers using the invention kit. Now, she’s working on two books about Maker spaces and the projects they make possible.”

Read my full profile here.

(Did you catch the Peter H. Reynolds The Dot allusion? And I’m holding Dot the robot?!)

Even more exciting to me is that I earned this distinction along with a class of librarians I hold in high regard.

I wanted to showcase all of the great teacher librarians awarded Mover and Shaker this year because school libraries are so important. A school library should be the hub of your school and your teachers should see your school librarian as an integral instructional partner on campus. These great librarians are perfect examples of why our schools need amazing librarians!!

Andy Plemmons – Andy is a marvelous #elemaker librarian and an amazing proponent of children’s literature. He is talented at bringing the community into the library through author visits, mentor programs, and Skype. Plus, he is very active in teaching his students about being a part of the even bigger global community by participating in global events like Dot Day, World Read Aloud Day, and America Recycles Day. On top of all of this awesome stuff, his library is student centered and embodies the voices of his students because he focuses on empowering his students by making “Student Choice” one of  the main goals of his library. To sum it up, he’s pretty much an all around incredible librarian! Where would his school be without him?

Amanda Smithfield– Amanda is a high school librarian at a magnet school. She’s transformed the culture of her library by adding extra hours, summer checkout, and even a podcast platform for her students to voice their thoughts on self-selected issues. The changes she’s brought about in her library have “increased (checkouts) by 300 percent in the first year and 500 percent more than in 2010.” WOW! Plus, she is teaching her students to use social media for good! Her “students tweet and text her, sometimes asking for help as late as 10 p.m.” Thank you, Amanda, for teaching our students to use our global community for good! What an amazing school library transformation!

Sue Kowalski– Middle School librarian Sue Kowalski LOVES libraries! She believes in the power of a school library and is so well loved, she even won the “I Love My Librarian” award in 2012! Even though her own library and school has been broken up into six different locations for a renovation, she bought an RV and has a traveling bookmobile to keep her school glued to the library. I love how her students help run the library. This is such a great way to give students ownership of the library! Head over to Library Journal and read more about this incredible teacher librarian.

Adam Marcus– As a teacher assigned to the library, Adam Marcus is so passionate about reading and libraries, he helped form a library advisory committee and raise over 500,000 to revitalize the underused space at his NYC school. He even advocated for a full-time librarian position. Plus, he still helps run programs that have students at his school loving literacy and thinking reading is cool.  (Because reading is cool!)

Congratulations to all the other Movers and Shakers honored in this class of 2016! Thank you for your passion towards libraries as innovative and pertinent spaces for our communities. I’m honored to be among you and can’t wait to meet more of you face to face and hear about all of the great things you are doing in your libraries.

Read all profiles here.


Library Journal March 2016 Cover – Used with Permission