LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Katie Thomas

Position: Library/Media Teacher
School: Bernard J. Ward Elementary School
School District: Valley View School District #365U
City, State: Bolingbrook, IL

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Music that Describes Katie

Kaite Thomas was nominated by her assistant principal, Patti Chow.

"When I think of a LifeChanger, I think of someone selfless, caring, uplifting, inspiring, and kind, wanting better for all those around her. Katie Thomas, our wonderful librarian at my school, is that kind of person. She has been an educator at B.J. Ward Elementary School in Bolingbrook for 16 years," said Chow. "As Library/Media Center director, she has opened the world of books and promoted the love of reading to thousands of kids over these years. The love of reading can be life-changing for a person, as the skill and determination can open future doors to many exciting opportunities. 

Our school sits in an impoverished area where kids don't have easy access to books, so Katie makes sure that every student, every year, gets several books put in their hands through multiple means. Every week, she helps them choose books from the school library to borrow based on their varied interests. She makes it a point to learn about her students' interests so she can build relationships with them. Throughout the year, Katie hosts 'free' book fairs, similar to those we attended in the past, where we'd look through the catalog, excitedly circle the books we wanted, and show up with our money to school to buy the beloved choices. In our students' cases, Katie knows their families don't have the extra money to do this, so she tirelessly seeks grants from local businesses and organizations to purchase books. Then, she creates a beautiful display in the library for kids to come and choose their free books. The smiles on their faces illuminate, all because of this selfless reading warrior who knows what a book can do for a child, especially a book they can now call their own.  

Katie has made it her mission to ensure that we are providing diverse books so that kids not only see themselves in them but learn about others that they are not familiar with. When we use books as mirrors and windows, as she promotes, we contribute to a better world, one child and book at a time. To encourage the love of reading, she hosts free book clubs on Friday mornings, gathering staff members and students to talk about the free books she gave them a few weeks prior over water and donuts! 

Leo Tolstoy once said, "True life is lived when tiny changes occur." I would say this embodies who Katie is - she loves changing kids' lives daily through all the "tiny" moments she has with them, sharing and discussing books! She never puts herself in the limelight, but the smiles and the hugs from the students make what she does all worthwhile.

In addition to inspiring our students, she also is an exceptional teacher leader in our school and district. Katie is the leader of the elementary school librarians across the district and facilitates their monthly meetings, where they discuss topics such as book selection. These conversations can sometimes be controversial, considering the time that we are currently in with 'book banning.' Still, she remains steadfast in providing books to our kids that explore topics that can enrich their lives by considering multiple perspectives they may not otherwise be exposed to. She is the Union Representative and establishes strong, positive relationships with all staff members. She is constantly seeking ways to improve staff morale, and she does this by being fair, equitable, and caring and always promoting positive solutions. She frequently leads programs and events that connect our families with our school to spark ideas for what parents can do at home with their children to promote literacy. She is creative in her work and even became a 'quail mama' this year to bring the joy of observing eggs hatch to our school community. To say that she provides exciting opportunities that are life-changing and possibly not experienced by our kids if she didn't offer them is an understatement.

I wholeheartedly nominate Katie Thomas for the LifeChanger award, as she has helped thousands of students learn to love reading, which ultimately helps open up numerous doors for them in the future."