Sunday, May 7, 2017


A selfie at the end of the conference with the fabulous co-chairs, Maria and Tina

I have a Texas sized heart that has enough love for my library and author peeps in Texas AND my BAEs in New York.  That said, greetings from a bus filled with normally NOT quiet librarians (seriously!) but who are currently exhausted from a couple of full days of fun, laughter, and of course, excellent PD in Buffalo, New York!

Kudos to co-chairs, Maria and Tina, who did an excellent job at organizing, delegating, coming up with Plan Bs, and leading an amazing team of folks to put on the best conference ever!

From cool new name tags with a QR code linked to the schedule and the wifi passwords 

attached to gift mugs and every other detail in between, this conference rocked.  Gene Luen Yang, the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature (the job title that he's had with the most syllables) kicked off our conference with an inspiring and entertaining keynote.  We learned that although Superman was not his favorite superhero growing up, he is now.  In fact, I like this theory a lot, “He just might be an Asian American Jew.”

Just as Gene is an ambassador for literature, books can be ambassadors for us and the kids in our lives.  “Every kid/reader needs books that act as advocates and ambassadors…These books teach us to love others…We all need to get outside of our comfort zone…” and that’s why Gene came up with the “Reading Without Walls Challenge.” So if you haven’t done it already, read a book from a genre you don’t normally read, a character who doesn't look or live like you or a topic you don't know much about.

I was lucky enough to be asked by Maria to be Gene’s handler.  I couldn’t have asked for a better job and a better person to work with.  In his breakout session he shared about his experiences in the classroom (for 17 years!) and how he had his students draw comics in his Algebra II and Computer Science classes.  They used a program called “Comics Life,” their photo library or something like “Long Shot Comics” because “anyone can draw dots.” This gave me great ideas on how I can collaborate with my fifth grade math teacher (maybe even this year since the state math test is over!). 

“Comics are a visual narrative medium that asks our students to read.”

“Drawing well doesn’t make for great comics.” Hmmm…really?
Does that mean even I should try it?

At the same time as Gene’s breakout session was a popular workshop called, “Oh, the Places You will Go! – Bringing the World into Your Library with Technology.”  Mike Drezek chatted with my friend, Kirsten Murphy, on Twitter the night before and as part of his presentation he connected with her and her fourth graders in Forth Worth! I’m sorry I missed it! 

AASL President-elect and newly crowned “Dr” Steve Yates was our keynote speaker at lunch.  He shared all the ways to get involved in AASL and how AASL can support us.  He also shared the new covers of our new standards to be unveiled at the annual meeting. What a personable guy!  As a Yankee through and through, I love that Alabama accent and talking to him about the football games.  Boy, would I like to go to one of those some day.

At around this time, I heard that Gordon Korman was not going to make it to our Knickerbocker banquet that evening.  There was bad weather in New York City and no combination of transportation would get him there in time.  Maria, Tina and their team came up with the idea of a lifesized #FlatGordon.  Steven played dead and was the model.  This was perfect.  Gordon accepted his award via Skype and it was almost as wonderful as if he was there in person.

The Knickerbocker Banquet

Congrats to Principal Rich Pogue from Tamarac on his administrator award!

Congrats to Ellen and Stephanie for their awards!

Librarians excited to take a selfie with Gordon!

With fellow graduate students and friends


Kristina Holzweiss also had trouble getting out of the city and ended up on Amtrak.  She arrived later that night exhausted.  Since she’s always pushing her students to persevere, the idea never crossed her mind to give up.  She gave an inspiring, emotional keynote this afternoon at lunch. I spied lots of wet eyes.

Saying goodbye to Steven Yates

Conference chairs with our SSL President, Michelle Miller

Sue Kowalski with Gordon!

We didn't know we needed tissues for Kristina Holzweiss's keynote!

All of the workshops were packed and buzzing.  People were excited and pumped to return to their libraries on Monday with new ideas and end-of-year energy. We are excited to be together again in 2018 on Long Island.  Yes, I love my new friends and colleagues in Texas but I will never forget where I began.  Thanks for the inspiration and love, NYLA-SSL.

Epilogue: The Leaping Pictures

Gene Luen Yang!

AASL President-elect Dr. Steven Yates

Amazing Conference Co-Chair Maria Muhlbauer

Just the amazing everything Sue Kowalski

More amazing everythings Sara Kelly Johns and Kristina Holzweiss

The Go-To person and former Conference Chair Jim Clark

My permanent conference roommate who always makes me laugh and fabulous colleague at Schodack Maureen Squier

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