School: Dr. Pablo Perez Elementary School
School District: McAllen Independent School District
City, State: McAllen, TX
Cynthia Cooksey was nominated by a parent who wises to remain anonymous.
Mrs. Cooksey is a remarkable librarian with high personal expectations who works consistently towards the excellence of her students. Her work is high caliber, and she has a dedication to her students, colleagues, and campus that goes beyond the call of duty.
She has excellent comprehension and communication skills and relates well with young students as well as adults. It's not unusual to catch Mrs. Cooksey dressing in character in her library to draw her students into a story, or perhaps holding a puppet to bring a book to life. Once, the nominator even witnessed her riding a blow up cow to show the students how to participate in the alphabet rodeo during library time. "Imagine a grown person dressed in western clothes with a cowboy hat bouncing around on a cow! It was truly a sight to see," the nominator said.
This candidate for Lifechanger of the Year has continually written and won grants to supply her library, including books, robotics and maker space materials. Even when budgets are tight, she finds the funding for these important activities.
Her 'can do' attitude is evident every year as she strives to implement new technology trends to keep the students learning.
It's hard to miss the hard work and dedication Mrs. Cooksey devotes to her robotics program where students stay after school until 5:00pm Monday through Friday during robotics season. She is the sponsor of the Texas State Championship winning Coding Chicks, who placed second nationally in the 2015 Wonder League Robotics Competition. This coding team was the only all-female team to make the finals at the national level in 2015. This school year, Mrs. Cooksey sponsored four coding teams. One of those teams (Programming Princesses) made the final round and placed third in the 2016 World Wonder League Robotics Competition. Her other three teams also earned perfect scores and are considered state champions. In Texas, there were only twelve teams with perfect scores and four of those teams were under her guidance.
Her love of coding and robotics has created a coding culture in her district and region. She has led many in-service sessions for district librarians and other librarians, teachers and administrators in the region and state to get others coding. She has been requested numerous times by her region to present on basic and intermediate coding skills to others. She has even been asked to sit on a panel of technology experts in the region to discuss the need to code. The response has been tremendous. "Due to the efforts of our librarian, Mrs. Cooksey, most of the elementary libraries in our district and several other districts are now coding during library time, and we have several students at our campus that are now interested in coding as a future career,"
Another thing that makes Mrs. Cooksey so unique is her ability to bring new innovative ideas to her campus. She was one of the first librarians to jump on the Maker Space band wagon. With tech products like Little Bits, Ozobots, Makey-Makey, Spiro, and Dash and Dot, she has revolutionized her library and other libraries in the district. She is always showcasing her latest acquisitions to the other librarians in order to give them ideas and demonstrate how easy it is to incorporate these concepts into the library.
Additionally, she sponsors several events in the library throughout the year. She has a mystery event that is a major hit with the students. It is simply a mystery to “die for”. Students love the mystery months when this event is in play. In fact, they begin asking for it at the start of the school year. It is a major production as the students become enthralled in a mystery readers theater where they become the characters in the storyline. It's a real "who done it."
Her drive to install great literature is tremendous with her Bluebonnet program. She talks up a storm about those books and always ends January with the Bluebonnet celebration. "Believe me, everyone gets their blue on at that party. All of the food served is blue. Blue pasta, blue sauce, blue nacho cheese, blue chips, blue drinks, and there is even blue cupcakes with book covers as the decorations. Did I mention the Bluebonnet Bingo? She even makes the boards for students to play on. That is another highly sought after event," the nominator recalled.
To keep things fresh, Mrs. Cooksey is always adding new programs to the library. This year, she started a knitting and crocheting club on campus. The response has been awesome. She had way more applicants than she was able to accommodate since she does not have a library assistant. Students waited patiently to be invited while the original students got the hang of crocheting/knitting. Those original students in the club then became her assistants, showing the new students how to crochet/knit. Her energy and drive go way beyond what is expected.
Just outside the library door, there is a quote from Mrs. Cooksey; "Make the right decision, or make the decision right." This is her motto. She means what she says, and says what she means. She expects students to perfom at their best, and she, in turn, gives her best. Her library is open by 7:15am every morning, and she is still there at 5:00pm.
"I don't know how she does it, but she does. The students and staff respect her, but more importantly, they love her. It is apparent in their love of reading and the library," the nominator said.
Cynthia Cooksey in The News:
McAllen ISD Librarian Nominated for National Life Changer Award