SAGU alumna, Angela Watts, was announced as Librarian of the Year for the Dallas Independent School District.
“I was very surprised,” says Watts. “I work with some wonderful librarians here in Dallas. There’s about 200 of us, so I did not think I would win.”
Watts received the title after a detailed selection process that required nominations from the principal and teachers of Thomas Tolbert Elementary, approval from a committee that considered her accomplishments of the past year, and reference letters from parents in the district.
Watts identifies herself as a lifelong reader. With the culmination of her love of literature and a deep-rooted passion for serving others, Watts was naturally led to her current field. Her vision for being a librarian is simply “putting books in the hands of the kids that need them the most. Teaching them to think critically about the world around them‐ in print and in person.”
Watts is serving in her eighth year at Thomas Tolbert Elementary where she introduces students to books and helps them build a love of reading.
One of Watts’ well-deserved accomplishments over the past year was working toward the implementation of Reading Rockstars, an author-visit program initiated by the Texas Book Festival. Thomas Tolbert was selected to be the first site in North Texas to host the program. This past year, students had the opportunity to meet former First Lady, Laura Bush.
In addition to connecting students with books, the nature of Watts’ role at Thomas Tolbert involves pulling resources for teachers and working with them to make sure lessons contain effective and engaging content.
Thomas Tolbert is an inner-city school located in the south Oak Cliff area of Dallas. Many students are part of a transient population, often lacking resources and stable home environments. Watts says that between 95 to 100 percent of Thomas Tolbert students qualify for Title I, which as part of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, provides financial assistance to schools with a high percentage of students from low-income backgrounds.
“We have lots of English Language Learners, some of whom are new to the country,” Watts says. “We’re making sure that students have the resources that they need, the language-scaffolding and the emotional support that they need.”
Connecting with students and equipping them for success has been no small feat; Watts says she would not be where she is today without her faith in Christ. “When you’re in it every day, it’s hard to see what is paying off,” she says. Yet after planting many seeds, Watts is seeing the fruit of her efforts as she witnesses her former students develop a love for learning and become productive members of society.
Every year, Thomas Tolbert holds parent-teacher conferences, and Watts has the opportunity to see former students who are the older siblings of current students. They tell Watts about the books they’re now enjoying in junior high and high school, a love that was fostered during their time in the Thomas Tolbert library.
“I have been able to build relationships with students and their families,” Watts says. “It’s encouraging to see that what I’ve taught them, now they’re using in their lives.”
After graduating from SAGU in 2001 with an undergraduate degree in Secondary Education, Watts returned to pursue a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction. “That’s really what has helped me tremendously in my job,” she says. “It has better equipped me to help teachers and students.”
Watts is fully aware of how her faith has kept her persistent through the challenges and victories of her career. She also recognizes the role that SAGU has played in helping her build a network of people that she could relate to and learn from.
“My advice to students going into a similar career path is to find a few people on your campus who are willing to help you,” Watts says. “Ask questions and work hard. All the time and effort that you spend is worth it.”