Harriet 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.