URI’s Graduate School of Library and Information Studies (GSLIS) alumni are shaping today’s learners and tomorrow’s leaders in Rhode Island’s public schools. Two GSLIS alumni, Heidi Blais and Susan Murphy, received this year’s Teacher of the Year awards in their respective Rhode Island districts for outstanding use of learning technology in schools. Blais, media specialist at Cranston High School East, was named Cranston Teacher of the Year, while Murphy, media specialist at Alan Shawn Feinstein Middle School, was honored in Coventry.
Blais and Murphy illustrate the importance of Library and Information Studies to the mission of the Harrington School of Communication and Media—promoting digital innovation and communication leadership throughout New England and the nation. The two winners aren’t bothered by the stereotypes associated with librarians and, instead, use them as opportunities to educate. Blais suggests, “If we can be . . . welcoming to all members of our school communities . . . then we can shatter this misconception and help people realize the value of school librarians, and their role in helping students achieve in the digital age.” Murphy notices that when people get to know her and her work, the stereotypes disappear.
The pair’s awards give recognition to a group of innovators that are educational technology gatekeepers for school communities. Blais and Murphy are both integral in bringing learning technology to Rhode Island public schools. Murphy has implemented two programs that provide students with Nooks and Chromebooks, which serve as educational tools at home and in the classroom. Blais facilitated an “Internet Book Club” and now runs a successful student book blog. Currently, Blais is researching web-based multi-media tools for student presentations, such as Animoto. They both emphasize the importance of online databases that students use in college, such as AskRI and EBSCO.
The pair offer sound advice for all teachers. Murphy believes a teacher should be, “Someone who gets students excited and involved in their own learning.” Blais adds that, “Teachers should also be learners . . . I believe we can all learn from each other.” The students and staff in Cranston and Coventry public schools are sure to learn much from Heidi Blais and Susan Murphy in the years to come, as learning technology plays an increasingly vital role in everyday citizenship.
Emma Clarke, 2016