Rosa Maria Segale was born on January 23, 1859, in Cicagna, Italy. When she was only four years old, her family immigrated to the United States, settling in Cincinnati, Ohio. After graduating from high school, she entered a convent, changing her name to Sister Blandina at the time she took her final vows.
Mistaking the community for Cuba, Sister Blandina accepted a position as a teacher in Trinidad, Colorado. She arrived in the centennial state on December 10, 1872, and immediately set about persuading the locals to build a better school building and to acquire better furnishings for it.
It was in Trinidad that one day Sister Blandina was called upon to care for bullet-ridden Happy Jack, a member of Billy the Kid’s infamous outlaw gang. As compensation for her efforts to save Jack’s life, Billy granted Sister Blandina one favor. She immediately asked that he cancel plans to kill four physicians in Trinidad who had refused medical treatment for Jack. Unfortunately, the wounded outlaw eventually died from his wounds, but the nun was able to save the lives of the four doctors.
When the war was over, Mary returned to college, completed her degree, and became an elementary schoolteacher, one of the first certificated Japanese-American teachers in the United States. Her remarkable story is told in her autobiography, We the People, a volume which unfortunately is now out of print. However, with some effort, it can be found through second-hand book sellers or in some libraries (check WorldCat), and it is well worth the hunt. You can read also read her story in Chalkboard Champions, available through amazon.com.
As teachers ready themselves for the start of another school year, it seems appropriate to spend some time reflecting on professional responsibilities. Usually I read the list of responsibilities for teachers published by the National Popular Education Board in 1872. It’s amusing to see how much things have changed in the last one hundred and forty years. Here’s the list:
- Teachers each day will fill lamps, clean chimneys.
- Each teacher will bring a bucket of water and a scuttle of coal for the day’s session.
- Make your pens carefully. You may whittle nibs to the individual taste of the pupils.
- Men teachers may take one evening each week for courting purposes, or two evenings a week if they go to church regularly.
- After ten hours in school, the teachers may spend the remaining time reading the Bible or other good books.
- Women teachers who marry or engage in unseemly conduct will be dismissed.
- Every teacher should lay aside from each pay a goodly sum of his earnings for his benefit during his declining years so that he will not become a burden on society.
- Any teacher who smokes, uses liquor in any form, frequents pool or public halls, or gets shaved in a barber shop will give good reason to suspect his worth, intention, integrity and honesty.
- The teacher who performs his labor faithfully and without fault for five years will be given an increase of twenty-five cents per week in his pay, providing the Board of Education approves.
Most chalkboard champions agree that library programs are extremely valuable to students. But did you know that, according to recent studies, strong school libraries help to increase standardized test scores? Statistics show that public schools with strong school library programs outperform those without such programs on high-stakes standardized tests. This is true regardless of the school community’s parent education, poverty levels, ethnicity, or the percentage of English language learners in the school population. Increases in library program elements correspond to standardized test scores at all grade levels: elementary, middle school, and high school.
Library elements that contribute to increased test scores include the total number of hours the library is open, the total amount of technology available from the library, the total services provided by trained library staff, the presence of a program of curriculum-integrated information with literacy instruction, the informal instruction of students in the use of resources, providing teachers with information about new resources, and providing reference assistance to both teachers and students.
A strong school library program in described as one that provides a full-time teacher/librarian, a full-time paraprofessional, a robust and up-to-date collection of digital, print, and media resources with a budget to support it, and abundant access to the library’s facilities, technology, and resources. How well does your school’s library program meet the criteria?