InClass

Let us introduce you to the librarian from Alta E. Butler Elementary School. With a little more than one year of experience, Kristina Santiago embraces her student-given nickname and cultivates enhanced learning opportunities through reading. Kristina Santiago says she never had a clear plan for po

Oct 05, 2016

Let us introduce you to the librarian from Alta E. Butler Elementary School. With a little more than one year of experience, Kristina Santiago embraces her student-given nickname and cultivates enhanced learning opportunities through reading.


Kristina Santiago says she never had a clear plan for post-grad life. Before accepting her current position with the Isaac Elementary School District, she tried her hand in the classroom at another Arizona school. After one year, she realized it wasn’t quite the perfect fit.

“I knew there was something about working with kids that I enjoyed, but I knew I hadn’t found my niche. I’ve always loved reading and books. The library is my happy place,” Santiago admits.

Santiago, originally from Buffalo, New York, explains her first year as a librarian was a whirlwind. As she explains, “It’s me, 800 kids, and thousands of books. I was buried.” Since her inaugural year, she’s developed new systems, protocols, and procedures.

Between book bucks, call numbers, book reviews, and a new after-school program, Santiago hopes she’s helping kids see the library can be a place for fun and learning — deafening silence not required.

“I’d heard from the staff that most kids didn’t like coming to the library. It was a stereotypical place where no one could talk. I wanted this space to give students a chance to truly be kids,” she says.

Her job goes beyond checking books in and out. And, it’s certainly more than hounding students with overdue books. Santiago yearns to foster a positive learning environment.

“I lead with, ‘I love reading. Reading is awesome.’ Even if a book might seem too challenging for a student, I don’t discourage their interest,” she explains.

Sometimes, she redirects students by asking them why they want to read it. “I don’t take Harry Potter away from a second grader, but I’ll suggest that they read a few pages before checking it out to see if they understand it. Or, I probe and ask if they have someone at home that can read with them,” she explains.

Currently, Santiago is finding ways for students to develop new areas of leadership.

“This year, I started teaching a library leadership academy class through the 21st Century Community Learning Centers. It’s after school, three days a week for about seven weeks. My focus is teaching students library skills and leadership traits,” she says.

Additionally, Santiago has created a new opportunity for her students in grades three through five. It started after she noticed the kids were asking to read the same books over and over, she says.

“That’s fine, but there are so many other great options. So I found a way for them to learn more, while also earning the chance to check out additional books. Now, students get book bucks for completing book reviews,” she says.

Next year, she hopes to make book reviews an even bigger opportunity where students can read one another’s summaries. Whether she posts them on the ends of shelves or makes them into a binder is not yet determined, but she’ll continue to keep student engagement at the forefront.

Santiago isn’t afraid to admit there’s plenty of room for growth, but it’s obvious she’s made progress in many areas. For one, she clearly connects with her students.

“I can’t walk through the hallways without hearing, ‘Hi Ms. Library or Ms. Santiago,’” she says.

After all, she’s come to love the sweet nickname given to her by her youngest students.

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