Pacific Junction School
Pembina Trails School Division
Kathy Bru is in her third year as Principal at Pacific Junction School, a kindergarten to grade 5 school located in the community of Charleswood. As a former teacher of English, Kathy stresses the importance of literacy learning and teaching. She believes that the Library Learning Commons provides an innovative learning environment to support strong literacy learning and teaching which will increase student’s achievement and engagement. She has inspired and supported this community to embrace a Library Learning Commons philosophy with a focus on inquiry, creative and critical thinking, multiple literacies, and working together to meet shared goals and knowledge building.
With a clear focus and purpose, Kathy has engaged in professional learning with her staff. She understands the importance of the position of a teacher librarian to support change and to promote strong literacy practices in a school. She began by clarifying the role of the teacher librarian as a literacy and educational leader in the school. Using the Leading Learning: Standards of Practice for School Library Learning Commons in Canada document (Canada Library Association, 2014) she met with her teacher librarian to discuss beliefs and to set goals. To move towards a Library Learning Commons (LLC) philosophy, she recognized the need for ongoing professional learning and support for teachers to collaborate with other schools in our city. Professional Learning Teams were created to learn about the standards of practice in a learning commons. With the various PLTs, Kathy visited many schools to learn along with her staff what was working in schools and how they had transformed their thinking and practice using a library learning commons philosophy. With this approach, Kathy led her staff on a journey to discover that they were advocates for advancing to a Library Learning Commons.
Professional learning focused on inquiry, creative and critical thinking, essential questions, and increasing the integration of technology and multiple literacies in curriculum plans. She supported staff to continue to build their knowledge base, evaluate their practices and assess the material needs in the library and makerspace. With a whole school approach, Kathy encouraged everyone to participate and engage in the learning and planning. At the same time, she supported the role of the teacher librarian as a literacy leader to attend SAGE, all divisional professional learning meetings, and to collaborate with teachers to co-plan inquiry units. Flexible scheduling allowed time for the teacher librarian to co-teach with classroom teachers in multiple spaces including the library, makerspace or computer lab.
Kathy understood the importance of supporting staff as they challenged their beliefs and practices about teaching and learning. The staff designated their Art/Science Room as our low-tech makerspace and their existing computer room as their high-tech makerspace. With the library as a budget priority, Kathy supported staff as they designed and planned for multiple learning spaces to support student learning. With her teacher librarian, they applied for several grants to purchase new materials to support their makerspace and library collection. New furniture that allowed for flexible arrangements for learning was purchased. Kathy understood that working alongside her staff, during the period of cleaning and organizing, would provide many opportunities to share their beliefs and their ideas about how they planned to use these spaces.
Kathy believes that a library collection must reflect our beliefs as Canadian citizens. A critical review of the library collection was done to weed out the old and out of date materials. Kathy provided significant funds to ensure that new purchases could be made to support diverse cultures including our indigenous peoples of Canada, diverse families and the various gender relationships, citizenship and belonging.
When given the data, Kathy met the financial needs through the school budget or through successful grant applications. As the staff learned about the LLC, their environments shifted with them. With her guidance and support, they added extensively to their book collection, digital materials (i.e. iPads, robotics), building materials (Lego, KENx, etc), and Lego Story Starters, etc. for a very well equipped Makerspace and High Tech area. Their LLC, Makerspace and High Tech area was completely renovated. New furniture and shelving was purchased and room layout changes were made to create learning spaces that support multiple literacies and collaboration focused on inquiry learning.
Today, Pacific Junction LLC is an established vibrant, collaborative environment that emphasizes student and staff learning through the model of inquiry and exploration. The library collection has a wide and varied selection of quality reading materials, available in a variety of formats. Located at the centre of our school, it is a beautiful meeting place and the heartbeat of the school.
The high tech and low tech Makerspace areas are an extension of our Library Learning Commons. Students engage in Genius Hour, coding, green screen technology and many other computer applications and technologies to deepen and demonstrate their learning. Students can also be found sewing, creating with Lego, doing puzzles, participating in art and science design challenges, as well as a wealth of other student-directed activities and clubs.
After three years of planning, the PJ Learning Commons had its official opening on January 16th, 2018 at a school assembly.
According to Michael Fullan, “the principal’s role is to lead the school’s teachers in a process of learning to improve their teaching, while learning alongside them about works and what doesn’t work” (The Principal: Three Keys to Maximizing Impact, 2014). Kathy has embraced learning with her team and taken them on a journey that is both exciting and rewarding. She is an administrator who has made a significant difference and recognizes the role of the LLC philosophy as a means of improving student achievement and engagement.
Nominated by: Sandi Ferguson, Teacher-Librarian, Pacific Junction School, Pembina Trails School Division
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