LHJH teacher finds new calling among bookshelves

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By Scott Akanewich

Katie Ann Prescott has a passion for words.

To be more particular, the written word and the books they compose.

So, when the teacher-turned-librarian is surrounded by thousands of bound tomes in the library at Liberty Hill Junior High School, she’s right in her element.

Prescott was named the school’s Teacher of the Year in her first full school year after – ironically enough – switching over from teaching ninth-grade English Language Arts for 12 years, a move that was predicated on her passion and a natural progression when the chance appeared to have the best of both worlds.

“I chose a career in education because I wanted to serve others. I wanted to make a difference every day and education afforded me that opportunity. I had always loved working with children and becoming a teacher was a natural course for me to take,” said Prescott, who taught in Leander before moving to Liberty Hill this school year. “When I decided to change careers and become a librarian, I wanted to do so because the reading aspect of being an ELA teacher always was my passion. Matching kids to the right book, engaging in powerful discussions about the novels they were reading, sharing book recommendations, igniting a kid’s love of reading – this was always my favorite part of teaching and now I get to do this every single day as a librarian.”

In her newfound position, Prescott is able to have a more wide-ranging relationship with the entire student body, as well as her peer group and her interaction with community members, she said.

“Serving as the LHJH librarian allows me the unique opportunity to interact with every single student, staff member and community member that enters the junior high,” said Prescott. “I love being a librarian because every day is a new adventure. With my students, I love encouraging them to be curious, to try new things, to see the world differently and to step outside of their comfort zone. With my peers, I love being available to help in whatever way I can. I want them to know we’re all a team, we are all in this together and that by working as one, we can make the greatest impact on our students. I enjoy engaging the community members of Liberty Hill, asking them to visit the junior high when we host special events throughout the year. Liberty Hill is such a supportive and selfless community and I am so thankful the entire town invests in the junior high students and staff. It is often said, ‘It takes a village’ and Liberty Hill is the perfect example of how a supportive community can enrich a school.”

Junior High Principal Travis Motal certainly appreciates what Prescott brings to the educational table, he said.

“Katie Ann is a hard worker and never settles for a minimum. She has exceeded every expectation I’ve ever had with her work and projects,” said Motal. “For example, she asked if she could sponsor a club and now she sponsors three clubs. She opens up the library to students every morning and supports teachers across all content areas from the cores to the electives, has become proficient in many technology supports we use, and now has become a technology resource for students and staff. On top of all this, she is just a great and kind person with a giving heart and she loves to see kids succeed.”

Prescott added although the award is an honor, she’s more pleased by having the opportunity to be in a situation to earn one.

“I’m extremely humbled my peers would vote me as LHJH Teacher of the Year and I’m so grateful they chose to honor me,” she said. “Honestly, every day is a blessing to work at LHJH and I just feel so lucky I have the opportunity to work with a wonderful group of staff members who are whole-heartedly committed to putting their students first.”

After spending the initial portion of her career in the classroom with high-school students, Prescott enjoys her new, younger pupils who are only beginning to scratch the surface of their formative years.

“I actually love working as a middle school librarian. I love this age because they’re still trying to figure out who they are – it’s an age when students are still learning their own voice and their own values and belief systems. I love their personalities and how they are sometimes brutally honest. I love watching them become more independent and confident as the year progresses,” she said. “When middle-schoolers see a problem, they are more than willing to step in and help solve it. They don’t see obstacles in their way and are passionate about finding a solution, are naturally curious and love learning new information – especially if it’s relevant to their lives. I also love the awkwardness of this age, too. The middle-school years can be challenging and I love being able to support and guide my students during this tough time.”

Despite the fact she’s new to the library, Prescott realizes how much the job has evolved over the years since she was the one walking through the door as a student from a no-nonsense authority figure to an engaging educator in an environment that is now vibrant and alive as opposed to the morgue-like atmosphere of yesteryear.

“Since I’ve only been a librarian for less than a year, I can only compare this profession to what it once was when I was in middle school,” she said. “The career has changed dramatically. Librarians used to be ‘book pushers’ who would sit behind the circulation desk and glare at students as they walked into the library. If students made any kind of noise, the librarian of the past would ‘shush’ them – as the library was meant to be a quiet and secluded place. Now, the library is the heart of the school. It’s a bustling, interactive and sometimes noisy learning commons where students can learn how to code, play board games with friends, host book clubs, build LEGO structures, read a book, color, discover a new hobby, study, or just sit and relax with a group of friends. No two days are the same as the library is constantly changing with all of the different activities students can participate and engage in. Yes, students check out books, but the library is so much more than that.”

However, currently the library sits dormant and without a sign of life due to the coronavirus outbreak – denying Prescott the most precious aspect of her profession, she said.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, this concept could not have been made more apparent,” said Prescott. “The best aspect of being a librarian is the constant interactions with both students and staff. The relationships you build day in and day out are what sustains you and without those connections, I feel lost. The worst aspect of being a librarian is not having those daily interactions due to this pandemic. I’m not alone as I know many staff members have expressed the same sentiment — I miss my students and I miss my peers.”

Looking back, Prescott is certain she made the right decision in moving from the classroom to the library.

“Honestly, being a librarian is the best job on the planet,” she said. “What could be better than encouraging a love of reading, talking books every day, igniting a child’s curiosity, encouraging students to step outside of their comfort zone and building relationships with the next generation?” 

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