MTSU alumna Valerie Michel recalls the standout moments in her librarian and education career and describes how her time at MTSU shaped her approach to her job.
A 2020 alumna of the College of Education’s Master of Library Science Program and January 2022 School Librarian of the Month per the Tennessee Association of School Librarians, Michel says she was drawn to MTSU because they offered the Library Science degree she was looking for.
It fit her schedule with the ease of online classes.
“I am married with two children and a full-time job, so having the ability to work on the program when it was more convenient for my schedule was what made my time at MTSU a success,” she explains. “There were several assignments that required me to be connected with outside groups or programs in order to complete the appropriate skill. As a school librarian, I still use these groups and programs that were required from me during these classes.”
After graduating with her bachelor’s degree in education in 2002, Michel says she went straight into teaching at an elementary school in Nashville, Tennessee.
“I have been in the education field for 20 years,” Michel notes, tracing the route of her career. “After my first year as the Library Assistant, I knew that being a librarian was what I wanted to do for the rest of my career. Having the experience of teaching for so long coupled with the amazing education I received from MTSU has given me the confidence and knowledge I need to thrive as a school librarian.”
Michel brought her expertise to Donelson Christian Academy, a preK-12 school where as media and library assistant she has “a very unique opportunity of having the same students in class/library for years.”
“I love being able to watch them grow, not only as students, but as readers and investigators of information,” she says.
However, her career has not been without its challenges to surmount.
“In March 2020 … the tornado that went right by downtown Nashville came barreling through and hit my school,” she recalls. “The entire elementary was destroyed, including the library. We had to move everything that the tornado had spared into a new location and restart all over again.”
Sorting through and trying to salvage what they could was quite a task, she says.
“It took our school almost two years to rebuild the elementary again. Just a few weeks ago we moved everything, for the second time in under two years, into our new school library at Donelson Christian Academy. This experience has brought us all closer together as a school and a community.”
She reflects on her time at MTSU fondly, looking back on the takeaways of her degree.
“My professors at MTSU gave me the confidence I needed to show me what it takes to be a great librarian. They fostered researching and analyzing skills in me, forced me to debate topics so I could better understand the audience I am serving, allowed me to show my creativity in building lessons, introduced me to diverse communities to expand my knowledge of librarianship, and encouraged me all along the way.
“My career has blossomed because of it. I now have the skill set and determination I need to make my career a benefit to not only the students but to the teachers and administration.”
To prospective graduate students, she advises, “If you are looking for an MLS degree that works around your schedule and where professors are helpful and caring, MTSU is a great place to be. Keep your hard-earned work. I often will go back and look at some of the assignments I completed and use them in my library position.”
For more information about MTSU’s Master of Library Science Program, visit https://www.mtsu.edu/programs/library-science-mls/degrees or contact program coordinator Frank Lambert at Frank.Lambert@mtsu.edu.
— Bethany Cárdenas (Bethany.Cardenas@mtsu.edu)