By Kathy Routliffe • Contact Reporter Pioneer Press
SEPTEMBER 12, 2016, 4:43 PM
Here is a link to the actual Tribune Article After a certain amount of time, it will probably be available only for subscribers, so I’ve re-posted the text and images here for my readers.
The third grade students sitting around Todd Burleson in Hubbard Woods School’s resource center one day last week were enthralled. Burleson, the center’s director, was regaling them with the tale of why one foot was in a bright blue cast. Limited mobility notwithstanding, he was animated and eminently watchable, and the youngsters responded in kind.
Burleson’s storytelling, and the way his students reacted, probably wouldn’t surprise Hubbard Woods principal Beth Carmody.
“When it comes to kids, he has so many childlike qualities of curiosity and passion, that he learns along with them,” she said. “And I think because his vision is always about learning, he passes that on to them.”
Many people use the word “passion” to help describe Burleson, who has been named 2016 School Librarian of the Year by the School Library Journal and Scholastic.
That passion – to teach students and teachers, to work with colleagues and parents to transform Hubbard Woods’ library into the IDEA (Innovation, Design, Engineering and Art) lab that he happily calls a “libratory” – helped judges make their choice for outstanding achievement and innovation.
In announcing his win, judges cited many of Burleson’s accomplishments, not just turning the library into what they called “an integrated, technology-driven space where students can exercise their creativity,” although they described that as “the highlight of his seven-year tenure as a library media specialist.”
The space opened last October after a summer during which Burleson and a dedicated team of PTO parent volunteers put sweat equity into its creation as part of the school’s centennial celebrations. Burleson stumped for the project when PTO members asked what they could do to mark the anniversary; last week, he grinned broadly and said, “When they asked me if I had any ideas, I pulled out my dream folder and said, ‘Boy, do I!'”
One project volunteer, parent Sarah Graham, said that Burleson was a great partner to work with because he wants to hear what others are thinking.
“He encourages not just the kids, but the parents, too, to take risks,” she said. “And when he comes to do anything, he come to it 110 percent … when we were painting walls, moving furniture, doing what we had to do, he was there every step of the way.
Judges for this year’s competition also lauded Burleson’s work with parents, school and district teachers, and library colleagues around the world via district seminars, national conference presentations and commentaries on his blog, https://toddburleson.com.
District Superintendent Trisha Kocanda was equally enthusiastic. Burleson skillfully blends high- and low-tech education techniques to make sure that the IDEA lab can enhance what students learn in their classrooms, she said.
“It’s pretty remarkable to see the engagement level of our students, and the way he can introduce them to new ideas, concepts and tools,” she said, adding that the method dovetails perfectly with the district’s mission of progressive education.
The district will honor Burleson later this month at a Hubbard Woods School town hall meeting, Kocanda said.
Burleson, 47, said he always wanted to be a teacher. The former third and fourth grade teacher actually student taught at Hubbard Woods. He later taught in North Carolina and at Evanston’s Baker Demonstration School before District 36 hired him 20 years ago.
He knew he’d been nominated for the award by a PTO member, but forgot about it until magazine officials told him he’d won the award in July. He said he couldn’t let anyone know until late last month.
Not everyone has access to the kind of financial support, parent volunteer strength, and mission friendliness that he is blessed with in District 36, he said, but all educators can use their creativity and ingenuity to do many of the things he’s been able to do for their students and colleagues.
He said that now he wants to use his newfound notoriety as a platform.
“One of my own missions is to promote the importance of progressive education and the value of libraries and librarians,” he said. “My goal this year is to help share ideas, and this is allowing me to collaborate on a global level.”