M.L.I.S., University of South Carolina
Stephanie Howell is the Lower School and Key School librarian and has been at CDS since 2001. Her two daughters, Rowan and Wendy, have attended CDS since they were in Pre-K. Before coming to CDS, Stephanie was a summer camp counselor at Illahee and a teaching assistant/animal wrangler at Roper Mountain Science Center in Greenville, SC. She obtained her undergraduate degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education from Furman University. Stephanie earned her Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science from the University of South Carolina.
Get to know Stephanie Howell:
In what ways can you teach/engage children at CDS that you couldn't at other schools? “I have time to get to know my students. Through literary lunches, weekly classes, and oral book reports, I get to know every student in the Lower and Key School. I have time to give individual assistance with book selection, if the student desires. The school where I worked in Greenville had 800 students - I just barely recognized them by the end of the year, much less knowing their individual personalities and reading interests.”
What do you like most about your job at CDS?
- The balance of routine and newness in both literature and students.
- Comfort of continuity for students transitioning between Lower School and Key School. When everything else in their school environment is changing, weekly library visits with me remain constant.
- The confidence that my own children are enjoying the best possible education and seeing them around campus.
- Parental support: volunteering in the library and encouraging their children to be readers.
- Introducing students to new literature.
- Discussing potential award-winning books and hearing student’s passionate and evidence-backed evaluations.
- Seeing the excitement and independence when a child finds a “just right” book.
- The satisfaction and excitement in a child who says, “This is exactly what I was looking for!”
- Working with inspirational, supportive, and kind colleagues.
- Respect for and from administrators.
- Continual opportunities for professional growth.
- Also: opening up a fresh delivery of brand new books!
In your opinion, how does the CDS community inspire students to be courageous and curious, wonder about things that they don’t understand, try new things, and develop individual passions? “Students are not restricted in their book selection by reading incentive programs at CDS. Individual interests are encouraged, and books may be checked out regardless of the child’s independent reading level. I’m much more interested in literature absorption than I am in who is actually doing the reading.”
How would you describe your classroom? “A haven for readers - be they avid or reluctant. A celebration of literature and information that welcomes all learners. Warning: not always quiet!”
What books and authors inspire you? “The Library Dragon by Carmen Agra Deedy - It’s become a tradition for me to read this aloud to every grade at the beginning of the school year. The older students enjoy the sophisticated wordplay and even the youngest Pre-K students understand the power of sharing a story which, in the book, transforms the dragon into a library goddess!”
What is your favorite quote about education, mentorship, children, and/or learning? “ …what will we someday do, I always wonder, without the pleasures of turning through books and stumbling on things we never meant to find? That happens during Internet research, of course, but in a more limited way, to my mind. And how could anyone consent to give up that smell of open books, old or new?” - Elizabeth Kostova The Swan Thieves
How would you describe yourself and/or your approach to your job in 10 words or less? “Believes there’s a soul-touching book for every reader”
Which classroom projects/events are you known for?
- “Literary Lunch - encourages voicing an opinion and respectfully disagreeing. Also, self-selected attendance and group-selected reading.
- Guided trips of the library attic (where the Library Dragon lives) during the last library class of fifth grade - just a tradition built from student’s curiosity about the library’s second level, it now includes the story of how the library almost burned to the ground (in 2009) but was rescued by Gary Hill.”
What personal passion brings balance to your life? “Traveling with my children (especially to my secret research obsession - Disney World), reading (surprise!), hiking and camping”
Is there anything else we should know about you and your work?
- “Loving what I do makes every year at CDS satisfying.
- My secret super power is identifying book requests based on cryptic details. For example, “Mrs. Howell...I’m looking for a book I read last year. It’s about a boy, and a dog, and a bathtub....”Nine times out of ten I can find the book before the child leaves the library.
- Another secret: I have not read every book in the library, but I do read as many as I can because I really love them. My 10,000 hours is in reading children’s literature (really).”
How is CDS different from what you experienced as a child in school? “I look to the librarians of my childhood for inspiration. Those ladies saw quiet curiosity as a positive personality trait, instead of insisting on extroverted interaction. I want to recreate their respect among readers regardless of age and their encouragement of reading absolutely everything! On the other hand, thanks to our research into brain-based learning, I now intentionally structure my lessons with activity and age-appropriate practices interwoven with literature and research.”