Beyond Books: Camas educator named Washington’s elementary teacher-librarian of the year

Sarah Logan has turned Dorothy Fox Elementary School library 'into hub of the school' says principal

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Dorothy Fox Elementary School’s teacher-librarian, Sarah Logan, teaches students about research methods and biographies inside the Camas school’s library, Monday, March 4, 2024. (Photos by Kelly Moyer/Post-Record)

It’s barely 8:30 a.m. on a chilly Monday morning and Dorothy Fox Elementary School teacher-librarian Sarah Logan is already in her element.

She moves from table to table in her Star Wars-themed dress, animatedly answering questions and connecting with students who have come to the school’s library to learn about biographies and conducting research on the library’s databases.

“I truly love my job in the Dorothy Fox library,” Logan said later that day. “My days are busy, and by the end I am usually tired, but I know that I am helping connect kids with the stories they will carry with them for their entire lives.”

Dorothy Fox’s principal, Cathy Sork, and the school’s media paraprofessional, Laura Sheppard, watch Logan — who was recently named the Washington Library Association’s 2024 Elementary Teacher-Librarian of the Year — interact with the young students and praise Logan’s accomplishments.

“She is astonishing,” Sheppard said of Logan. “She has transformed this library.”

Logan has had an incredible impact on the Dorothy Fox library, as well as on students and staff, since joining the Camas elementary school staff in the fall of 2015, Sork said.

“Dorothy Fox has not been the same since — in all the ways you can imagine are good,” Sork told Camas School Board members during the Board’s Feb. 26 meeting. “She is innovative and creative. She meets the needs of our kids and pushes our boundaries. If she thinks a door is locked, she’ll invent the key to open it.”

Over the past eight years, Sork said, Logan has “transformed the library into the hub of the school,” weeding out the unread, outdated books; bringing in resources that appeal to the full spectrum of elementary-aged readers; re-organizing books by genre to help children find things that appeal to their interests; creating a special section for graphic novels; piloting and then expanding the now-popular Book Bowl challenge that now takes place at all of six Camas School District elementary schools; running two book fairs every year; hosting reading nights; securing more than $20,000 in grant revenues; arranging the library’s collection of board books so students can see the books’ covers and be enticed by the colorful artwork; and focusing on data-driven methods that help build lifelong readers.

“She has elevated the entire profession in our state,” Sork said of Logan’s work with other teacher-librarians in Washington state — something the Dorothy Fox librarian is able to do as the current president of the Washington State Library Association. “She (asks), ‘What can we do to get kids excited about reading?’ She brings culturally rich materials to our building. And brings books and authors in, so all children can see themselves in our school.”

Logan, Sork said, also may be the coolest Dorothy Fox staff member.

“She’s the hippest in the school in terms of what the kids are into and what will get them motivated, what will get them reading,” Sork said. “She goes out of her way to make sure all kids can access what they need.”

Logan, who started her career in education as a junior high school English teacher in Idaho, said she quickly noticed that her school’s teacher-librarian seemed the most content out of all the junior high’s staff members.

“She was always so happy to get to work,” Logan said of her former Idaho coworker, who was, she said, like a “fairy godmother” to teachers and staff in need of library resources.

When Logan was trying to figure out her next career moves in light of starting a family, she remembered that teacher-librarian’s joy and returned to school to earn her own teacher-librarian certification. Since then, Logan has tried to keep up on the most innovative, data-driven ways to keep her students engaged in not just reading but also media literacy, quality research methods and learning how to think critically in a world filled with misinformation.

“I hope that, as they get older and have phones and social media, they’ll hear my voice in their heads and think before they post things that could hurt themselves or others,” Logan said. “I hope they remember our lessons on media literacy so that they can base their decisions on accurate information. Above all, I hope they remember that Ms. Logan cared about them and their interests.”

Logan recently returned from a Washington State Librarians Association conference filled with new ideas and eager to share them with her Dorothy Fox community and Camas School District peers.

She is working with Woodburn Elementary School’s teacher-librarian, Nichole Sturges, to select a title for next year’s “all-school read” project; and with all of Camas’ elementary school teacher-librarians to create a book list for the 2024-25 Great Book Bowl.

“I’m also working on starting a podcast tentatively titled, ‘What Does the Fox Read,’ where (Dorothy Fox) students share books they are reading and would recommend to others,” Logan said, adding that she has already recorded several segments with fifth-graders. “Now I just need to find time to put them together and post them. I’m hoping this becomes a regular series that students in all grades can be part of.”

This spring, Logan has planned to bring the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI)’s mobile planetarium to the Dorothy Fox library and will host Star Wars-themed library classes. She also has a Scholastic Book Fair coming up in a few weeks, Logan said, “which will allow (her) to put more current books on our library shelves.”

Sork describes Logan’s work in the Camas School District as “magical.”

“She consistently partners with families (so) students feel empowered as readers to learn about the world around them,” Sork said of Logan. “She builds book lovers for life.”

Sheppard — who was named the 2022 Washington Library Association’s School Library Paraprofessional of the Year — said Logan has a knack for figuring out the exact book students need.

“She’ll ask two or three questions and know,” Sheppard said.

Logan said she is simply trying to help students connect to books.

“In addition to the regular weeding — removing old, outdated, damaged or non-circulating titles — and continuing to update our books, I’d like to focus on better systems, signs and storage for our nonfiction titles,” Logan said. “One of my goals is to make my books ‘discoverable’ by those students who are least likely to remember how to use our catalog or take the time. While I will always teach students how to use the catalog to find books on shelves, I know that in reality many don’t want to take the time to do so, and I want to make it so easy to find books they want to read that the idea of not finding something is nearly impossible.”

And, just like the teacher-librarian she admired when she was a young English teacher, Logan said she finds joy in her work.

“Without a doubt, being a teacher-librarian is what I was born to do,” Logan said, “and I am so pleased to be able to serve the amazing families of Dorothy Fox.”