In this installment of TeachOntario Talks, we are profiling and celebrating the work of Carmen Condotta, OSLA (Ontario School Library Association) Teacher-Librarian of the Year at St. John Paul II School in Dufferin Peel Catholic District School Board (DPCDSB).
For 19 years, Carmen Condotta has advocated for school libraries, inspired young leaders and instilled the joy of reading in young children. Modelling the principles from the Together for Learning document, Carmen is a role model for teacher-librarians at DPCDSB and across Ontario. Carmen ensures the library is a “physical and virtual catalyst where inquiry, imagination, discovery, and creativity come alive and become central to growth — personal, academic, social and cultural”.
Carmen’s passion for her school community is evident in her desire to create a modern hub that engages student learners, incorporates student voice, and fosters teacher collaboration. The library learning commons at St. John Paul II Elementary School is an inviting learning environment, rich in diverse physical and virtual resources. Students are frequently surprised with special visits from authors to enhance their understanding of the writing process, and immersed into creatively designed spaces to explore literacy. Signs and posters around the library invite learners to guess author quotes, and students are able to share their insights about books through an online wiki. As a central learning hub in the school, Carmen meets regularly with staff to ensure that the library reflects the learning that is taking place in classrooms as well. Says former principal of the school, George Consitt, “The library, under Carmen’s leadership, is a centre for inquiry-based learning. It is a model for others to follow”
In all her roles, Carmen’s focus has always been on student-centred learning. “Carm is often the first to ask the question: ‘How is this going to be good for the kids?’” says current President of DPCETLA, Peter Graham. Carmen believes students need to be more active in the learning that is taking place. This involves more student choice and voice, collaboration between students, and input into their assessment through setting goals and success criteria with teachers. Most importantly, student-centred learning involves knowing and loving the students. Says one student, “She is so knowledgeable. Whenever I am doing a research project, she spends time with me and helps me narrow down what I’m looking for. She is so patient.”
In addition to her dedication to the school community, Carmen has been an active advocate for teacher-librarians in the school district and across the province. In DPCDSB, Carmen was a key player in the “Together for Learning in Dufferin Peel-Together for Learning, Together We Can” initiative, providing her expertise to other teacher-librarians on topics such as virtual spaces, creating a culture of inquiry, and creating wikis. She has held multiple roles, including President of the DPCETLA (Dufferin-Peel Catholic Elementary Teacher Librarian Association), OLA (Ontario Library Association) presenter, and teacher-mentor. She is seen by her peers as a “Beacon of ‘Best Practice’ and ‘storehouse’ of knowledge and experience.
Carmen’s impact as a teacher-librarian is vast, but more importantly her relationships with the community dives deep. Congratulations to Carmen Milani Condotta, OSLA Teacher Librarian of the Year.