Becca Valdez has worked in a variety of library settings, but she’s particularly drawn to working with teens. Three years into her position as a high school media specialist and Web administrator, Valdez has cultivated a space in the school’s media center that welcomes all students and keeps them coming back for more challenges, resources, technology and fun!
How do you see your role as a media specialist fitting into the lives of high school students in particular?
My principal and I just wanted to create the media center as the hub of the school, a place where—whenever you need help—that’s where you go. That’s what I enjoy about it. It’s an information resource for whatever, whether it’s academic or social. I wanted to make it a place where students can come whether they have a question on what counselor to go to; or if they’re being picked on, who to go to; or what courses they need to take or how to turn a project in.
How do you make the media center a lively place where students want to be?
I try to make sure that it’s a welcoming atmosphere. It’s not only learning the students’ names that makes a difference; it’s having a genuine interest. Knowing a little bit about them and being able to gauge how they’re feeling that day, remembering to ask if they passed their driver’s test, asking what they made on the project you helped them with, or knowing their taste in books so that you can find something they’ll like. I feel like it’s a mutual relationship, that if you respect them, they’ll respect you.
How do you know that approach is working?
I had a very close relationship with two Pakistani [sisters], and they were both in my book club. One of them had recently become vegetarian, and she knew I was vegetarian, so she said that she would try to make this traditional dish with tofu. [She] brought me some to taste, and then I was like, “Oh, that was so great! I’d love to learn and have you give me the recipe.” Then she offered to show me. She checked with her mom and I checked with my principal that it would be OK to come over. We arranged for a night, and it was so fun! The sisters were showing me how to make it, and their mom was also there offering all kinds of foods and telling me about them. The students were teaching me a few little words here and there in Urdu, and of course the first word I learned was book!
How do you engage the teachers in your school around learning and using technology?
I think it’s the same as with students, just trying to make sure that we’re inviting so that they actually want to come to the media center and actually want to know what we have, and building a relationship with teachers. I think forming that relationship to make sure that they feel comfortable and then trying to make sure to reach out, just being aware. Try and gauge where they’re at so that you’re there to help them with exactly what they need.
What’s the most important part of your role as the school’s Web administrator?
That’s another way I’ve been able to know students, getting to see their successes, getting to see them taking pictures and trying to highlight it on the [school] website or Facebook—or even just trying to find some reason to take a picture. It’s been neat being able to be out in the school and getting to see everything. The website is a beast of a project to stay on top of, and there are so many more things that could be out there, so much cool stuff that our students do. It is enjoyable being able to spread everything they do.