2020 Follett School Librarian of the Year: A Profile of Lisa Morris-Wilkey, Teacher Librarian, Casa Grande Elementary Unified School District
By Judi Moreillon, Co-Chair, Teacher Librarian Division, and 2020-21 AzLA Service Awards Committee Member
One benefit of being a state-certified school librarian and an Arizona Library Association (AzLA) and Teacher Librarian Division (TLD) member is that you can be nominated for the prestigious Follett School Librarian of the Year Award. The process involves a letter of nomination from someone who knows your accomplishments and two letters of support. School librarians who demonstrate outstanding practice in the areas of classroom-library collaboration, leadership, technology, and advocacy qualify for this award.
Profile: Lisa Morris-Wilkey
Lisa Morris-Wilkey earned the 2020 Follett School Librarian of the Year Award. Lisa has served as an exemplary teacher librarian in the Casa Grande Unified School District since 2008—six years at Casa Grande High School and seven years at the elementary level. Before she entered the library, Lisa taught students in grades 1-4 and 6-8. She also served as a Title I reading coordinator at a K-5 school and in a K-8 school as a gifted education teacher.
Lisa is an active member of the school librarian community at the local, state, and national levels. She has a passion for reading and children’s and young adult literature and is an outstanding representative of the school library profession in countless ways.
Service within the Casa Grande School District
While serving at Casa Grande Union High School (GCUHS), Lisa was involved in decision-making and professional development at the district level. She served on the district curriculum team, technology committee, and provided professional development to the staff on a variety of topics. Her leadership made the services and needs of the high school library visible to district administration.
In addition, Lisa collaborated with Central AZ College and Pinal County Library District to have CGUHS become a member of the Pinal County Library District. This collaboration resulted in CGUHS students being able to use their school IDs as their public library cards. Central AZ College funded the school’s library management system transition to Polaris. Lisa also negotiated a process whereby students could request books from any library in the county system, and their requests would be sent directly to the school.
Lisa currently serves in the Casa Grande Elementary School District (CGESD). She is the lead librarian for eleven schools. She is the only state-certified school librarian in the district. In that capacity, she provides monthly professional development to the media center assistants.
The most important thing to know about Lisa’s current position is how she made it happen. In 2018, she spoke at a school board meeting about the importance of hiring certified school librarians. After the meeting, the district created a certified position. Lisa jumped on the opportunity as a stepping stone to making district-wide change. From this position, she has able to advocate for more funding for school libraries; there hadn’t been a library budget in eight years. In 2019-2020, the CGESD school board allocated $60,000 for schools to purchase library books. (On a different note, Lisa was recently awarded a $10,000 grant to purchase books for the Casa Grande Middle School library from the Larry Fitzgerald Foundation.)
After schools closed for Covid-19 in spring 2020, Lisa became a member of the district’s Reentry Team where she currently serves as team leader for “electives,” including libraries. She is also a member of the SEAL Team, which provides guidance on all aspects of school reentry. In addition, Lisa has taken a leadership role in preparing a web-based learning opportunity for classroom teachers focused on online research and utilizing the district’s library management system (Destiny). She continues to work closely with district and school leadership regarding how students will access paper print and digital books during school closures.
Service for the American Association of School Librarians (AASL)
Lisa served on the 2019 AASL National Conference Author Committee. In that role, she worked with librarians across the country to select authors and topics and wrote descriptions for the conference author program. She was also a member of the Local Arrangements Committee for the 2017 AASL Conference held in Phoenix. Her duties for that conference included garnering volunteers for the conference, planning the “dinner with a local librarian and author,” and planning local school visits for librarians. CGUHS was on the local school visit list. In this work, Lisa helped bring positive attention to the work of school librarians and libraries in Arizona.
Service for the Tucson Festival of Books
Lisa has been a member of the Tucson Festival of Books (TFOB) Children’s Author Committee since 2010. She works with other committee members to brainstorm authors, write press releases about authors, host authors, and interview/moderate author panels—three or four at each Festival. TFOB is the third-largest book festival in the U.S. The Festival’s children’s and young adult authors and illustrators, in particular, make an impact on young people’s literacy learning in Tucson and greater southeast Arizona.
Other Professional Activities
Last year, Lisa’s principal selected her as a Delta Kappa Gamma Key Woman Educator (one such award is offered annual per school). In addition to being an AzLA/TLD, ALA/AASL member, Lisa is the only educator currently in practice serving on the Achieve Pinal Committee (https://achievepinal.com/). She is also an active member of the Assembly of Literature for Adolescents for the National Council for Teachers of English (ALAN) Board and co-chair of the Young Adults’ Choices project for the International Literacy Association. She frequently writes proposals and presents author panels at national conferences.
Meeting the Criteria for the Follett Award
Lisa Morris-Wilkey is a teacher librarian leader in her district, in our state, and across the nation. Her work exemplifies the leadership and advocacy necessary to enact the 2018 AASL National School Library Standards for Students, School Librarians, and School Libraries (https://standards.aasl.org/). In addition to the activities mentioned above, Lisa worked with the CGESD Superintendent Dr. JoEtta Gonzales to include the important role of school librarians in educating young people in her 2020 Arizona School Administrators Conference session. Dr. Gonzales was named the Arizona School Administrators Association’s Distinguished Superintendent for 2020.
Since earning the award, Lisa has been recognized in the local newspaper Casa Grande Dispatch and on CGESD’s social media sites. The articles have brought attention to the opportunities that hiring a certified school librarian can provide for a school, among them literacy leadership, curriculum collaboration, and information literacy instruction.
Follett School Librarian of the Year Award Nominations
You may be the next Follett School Librarian of the Year!
Nominations are reviewed each fall by the AzLA Service Awards Committee and one school librarian is selected to earn the award, which includes a certificate and a check for $1,000.00. If you are a TLD member with two or more years of continuous AzLA membership, a colleague can nominate you or you can nominate a well-deserving colleague.
For more information about the Follett School Librarian of the Year and other AzLA awards, visit the AzLA website at: https://www.azla.org/page/ServiceAwards