Harriet Zaidman: MSLA’s Outstanding Teacher-Librarian of the Year 2017

Screen Shot 2017-05-22 at 7.36.32 PMHar­riet Zaidman’s career as a teacher-librarian and her unwa­ver­ing com­mit­ment to school libraries in Man­i­toba are dis­tin­guished in every respect. Har­riet has always embraced her role as a teacher-librarian with enthu­si­asm and pur­pose. The pure joy she draws from her work is heart­felt, and that authen­tic­ity has fos­tered trust­ing rela­tion­ships with all who have had the good for­tune to know and work with her. Har­riet has nur­tured and men­tored future gen­er­a­tions of learn­ers in many dif­fer­ent com­mu­ni­ties. Her exem­plary prac­tise is tes­ta­ment to her instruc­tional role as a teacher-librarian in the schools she sup­ports, and in the process, she has gained the esteem and admi­ra­tion of numer­ous stu­dents, col­leagues and administrators.

In the early 1970s, Har­riet began her career as a library assis­tant at Radis­son School in Transcona. Work­ing in the school sys­tem inspired Har­riet to return to uni­ver­sity to acquire her Bach­e­lor of Edu­ca­tion. She began her teacher career in 1992 as the teacher-librarian at Niakwa Place School where she has remained to today.  From 2011 to 2014, Har­riet held a term posi­tion pro­vid­ing men­tor­ship to class­room teach­ers tran­si­tion­ing to the new role as a teacher-librarian. Har­riet resumed work­ing full-time in 2015, when she added the per­ma­nent half-time role of itin­er­ant teacher-librarian to her accom­plish­ments. In this role, she serves the staff and stu­dents of three small schools in Louis Riel School Divi­sion: Dar­win, Min­netonka and Wind­sor Schools, and as well, con­tin­ues in her half-time role as teacher-librarian at Niakwa Place School.

As an itin­er­ant teacher-librarian, Har­riet is reviv­ing a cul­ture of curios­ity and inquiry in the library learn­ing com­mons of three small school library learn­ing com­mons this year. She is ded­i­cated to re-imagining the col­lec­tions in each of the schools she sup­ports – care­fully eval­u­at­ing the exist­ing resources, remov­ing old, dodgy mate­ri­als, and mak­ing truly inspired rec­om­men­da­tions that will nur­ture new gen­er­a­tions of readers.

Har­riet knows that when stu­dents are encour­aged to explore per­sonal inter­ests and pas­sions, they are more moti­vated to read and their depth of under­stand­ing increases. Har­riet has made the art of the book talk a top pri­or­ity. It is astound­ing to watch Har­riet book talk a stack of new titles and watch cir­cu­la­tion stats climb – re-shelving the left­over titles is rarely required! She also orga­nizes author vis­its and ties them to spe­cial events. Har­riet is also intro­duc­ing new, extra-curricular activ­i­ties for stu­dents in small school libraries over the noon hour. Chess and knit­ting have always been well attended stu­dent clubs at Niakwa Place School, but this year, Har­riet is now orga­niz­ing knit­ting clubs in all four of her schools, attract­ing the par­tic­i­pa­tion of both girls and boys, and even staff.

Har­riet is also encour­ag­ing staff and stu­dents in small schools to share and cel­e­brate their love of read­ing with new events like the Bookie Awards. Bor­rowed from an annual favorite I Love to Read activ­ity orig­i­nat­ing at Niakwa Place School.  Stu­dents par­tic­i­pate in the Bookie Awards by choos­ing a favourite book and dress­ing up like the author or a char­ac­ter from the story. The Bookie Awards pro­gram sparks many ener­getic con­ver­sa­tions about great books, authors and lit­er­a­ture in gen­eral, as stu­dents become quite pas­sion­ate in defend­ing par­tic­u­lar titles as con­tenders for a vari­ety of dif­fer­ent awards.

Har­riet is a found­ing mem­ber of an LRSD Pro­fes­sional Learn­ing Net­work (PLN) that pro­motes the Man­i­toba Young Read­ers’ Choice Award (MYRCA) for mid­dle years read­ers. In col­lab­o­ra­tion with other teacher-librarians, Har­riet co-plans and orga­nizes an annual division-wide cel­e­bra­tion for stu­dents and staff – fondly dubbed the “MOSCARS” – a lit­er­ary ver­sion of the Acad­emy Awards. This spe­cial event gives stu­dents who have par­tic­i­pated in the MYRCA read­ing pro­gram an oppor­tu­nity to come together from all over the divi­sion, and share their expe­ri­ences as read­ers with oth­ers who have read the same titles. Last year, approx­i­mately 150 stu­dents in Grades 5–8, from 10 schools, par­tic­i­pated in this event.

Har­riet is ded­i­cated to pro­fes­sional learn­ing for teach­ers and teacher-librarians, both for­mally and infor­mally. She par­tic­i­pates in many pro­fes­sional learn­ing net­works and school-based com­mit­tees within the Louis Riel School Divi­sion. Har­riet is also a well-respected and sought-after con­fer­ence pre­sen­ter, both locally within LRSD, provin­cially at the MTS PD Day and even at the OLA Super Con­fer­ence in Toronto. She is always very gen­er­ous in shar­ing her exper­tise, and reg­u­larly deliv­ers pro­fes­sional devel­op­ment ses­sions on a vari­ety of top­ics. In her itin­er­ant role, Har­riet has also sup­ported site-based pro­fes­sional learn­ing in small schools. She is often called upon to speak on the inquiry process, the selec­tion and eval­u­a­tion of learn­ing resources, eval­u­at­ing web sites, and infor­ma­tion technology.

Irene Nord­heim, Assis­tant Super­in­ten­dent in Louis Riel School Divi­sion praises Harriet’s long years of ser­vice in the Divi­sion when she wrote:

Harriet’s work as a teacher-librarian has been a demon­stra­tion of pro­fes­sion­al­ism and team com­mit­ment at its finest. The great­est com­pli­ment that edu­ca­tors give to one another is to con­tin­u­ally seek help from those who are busiest. Har­riet has received more than her fair share of kudos. She has taken the time to con­sult, lis­ten and col­lab­o­rate with those who are equally invested in libraries and its value to the stu­dents of Man­i­toba. Ms. Zaid­man is always seek­ing to improve the man­ner in which we con­duct busi­ness in the “heart of the school”; our libraries. Whether it is men­tor­ing new teacher-librarians, advo­cat­ing for infus­ing tech­nol­ogy into instruc­tion way before it became expected or mod­el­ing an appre­ci­a­tion for lit­er­a­ture by becom­ing a highly respected book reviewer.

Har­riet is the ulti­mate co-teacher, col­lab­o­ra­tor and team mem­ber – who not only val­ues learn­ing with and from oth­ers, but also con­tributes to the learn­ing of oth­ers in so many won­der­ful ways. Need­less to say, her gen­uine will­ing­ness to share her exper­tise, try new ideas, and pro­vide con­struc­tive feed­back make her our favourite teacher-librarian men­tor in Louis Riel School Divi­sion. We respect her com­mon sense and good advice – class­room teach­ers, sup­port staff, teacher-librarians, library assis­tants, school com­mu­ni­ties, coor­di­na­tors, and admin­is­tra­tors – we all count on Harriet!

After 25 years work­ing as a teacher-librarian, Har­riet Zaid­man will retire from Louis Riel School Divi­sion on June 30th, 2017.