Today@Sam Article

Bearkat Alum Named Librarian Of The Year

May 13, 2024
SHSU Media Contact: Mikah Boyd

By Jaidin Shaw

Amanda Chacon, a Sam Houston State University alumnus, received the Librarian of the Year award from the School Library Journal (SLJ) for her extraordinary work as a K-12 library professional and was featured on the cover of SLJ for the national honor. 

Chacon’s higher educational journey started at the University of Houston where she received her bachelor's in English and minor in Biology, then became a high school English teacher soon after in 2004. In 2008, she decided to continue her education by starting her master’s in English at the University of Houston. Chacon knew that she wanted to have a greater impact on education but was unsure of how to go about it. She took the time to research and interview counselors, administrators and librarians to better grasp what would best suit her as an educator.

Amanda-Chacon-resize.jpg“Once I settled on librarianship, there was no question I had to attend the best educational school in Texas - SHSU,” Chacon said.

Subsequently, she began her Master of Library Science in 2009 and procured her first librarian job in 2010. A little over a year later, she graduated from SHSU with a 4.0 GPA.   

She mentions two professors at SHSU who stood out as having a significant impact on her development as an educator and librarian.

“Teri Lesesne, her infectious joy for the profession, literature and life resonated deeply across any communication I had with her,” Chacon said. “She is greatly missed, and I know many of us continue to honor her in our work. Another amazing professor is Rose Brock; she is a shining light there to lift us when sometimes the profession is met with difficulties and roadblocks.”

Chacon was excited about her role as a librarian because she not only got to focus on literacy but also was able to connect with students and staff through education and technology.

“My graduate work at SHSU prepared me thoroughly for every aspect of librarianship, from work with a myriad of stakeholders to the best children’s literature practices to handling MARC records,” Chacon said.

When asked about her initial reaction upon hearing that she had been named School Librarian of the Year by School Library Journal, Chacon couldn’t believe it. After getting the call from Kathy Ishizuka, executive editor of SLJ to notify her of the win, Chacon went on stroll down memory lane.

“Going back over the accomplishments of my tenure has given me a new humbling perspective of building something out of nothing with limited resources, and the power of persistence,” Chacon said. 

Chacon’s time at H.M. Carroll Elementary School has allowed her to produce many key initiatives and projects including STEM GEMS and LEGO Leaders. STEM GEMS, an all-girls STEM club, allows for an environment where young girls can experience no-tech, low-tech and high-tech challenges. Along with some hands-on experience, the club has regular guest speakers of accomplished women in STEM, ranging from firefighters to NASA specialists, inspiring girls to learn and showing them that anything is possible.

“I identified a need for robust STEM programs at the primary level, with a particular emphasis on engaging girls in this domain,” Chacon said.

Chacon-story-project.jpgLEGO Leaders allows students to build prototypes and educational solutions that address real-world problems.

Not only has Chacon fostered programs for students at H.M. Carroll, but she also collaborated with their teachers in a program called Storybook STEM, an interactive learning experience that aligns with classroom instructions.

“I host a Storybook STEM session centered around, “The Princess and the Warrior,” inviting students to read/watch the book and participate in three levels of STEM challenges utilizing magnetic tiles or LEGO bricks,” Chacon said.

Chacon briefly mentions that to stay up to date with technology, especially tech programs that align with education, she maintains a variety of education technology certifications and ambassadorships like the Amazon Future Engineer Teacher Ambassador, LEGO Education Teacher Ambassador, Magic School AI Trainer and more.

“While technology is often a core component to my lessons, you will find that I offer a variety of no-tech and low-tech options, as well. Sometimes, students just want a break from tech, believe it or not,” Chacon said.

Chacon is not only recognized for her professional achievements but for her dedication to serving the community. Books & Breakfast, a family-oriented event that invites parents to campus to enjoy breakfast with their children while they learn the importance of incorporating literacy into everyday routines, is a prime example. The public library also participates in this event by allowing parents to sign up for library cards. This event gifts students with a book of their own and has a dedicated reading time with their parents, followed by a discussion.

Another program is a grant initiative called Storybook STEM @ Home, which allows students to have the benefits of Storybook STEM in the comfort of their own homes, allowing the entire family to participate.

“Families can explore the “Papa’s Mechanical Fish” kit, which includes materials and challenges related to the book, prompting creative problem-solving and scientific inquiry,” Chacon said of the Storybook STEM @ Home program.

Chacon recently received a grant to implement the district’s first-ever seed library, which she says will deepen community engagement and teach students about sustainability.            


When asked what advice she would offer to current students or aspiring librarians this is what Chacon talked about how it’s okay to fall victim to imposter syndrome by seeing fellow librarians creating wonderful programs. Her advice is to keep showing up no matter what and keep building upon the foundations laid by education.      

“The profession is more joyful and radiant with you in it. When you’re ready to take on more levels of servant leadership, you will find we are all ready to cheer you on and support you in whatever capacity you wish to serve. But take your time. Building a library program takes intentional, purposeful planning.” 

Chacon also expresses the need for librarians to advocate when it comes to making sure students get the proper resources they need to learn. She also emphasizes the importance of showing up to board meetings and signing up to speak on the importance of librarians in school districts.

“Currently, the most pressing issue I see is the budget cuts being passed down from the state level to the district level. Some districts unfortunately have not properly allocated their funds and are therefore left with deficits, which leaves them scrambling to decimate essential positions like instructional coaches, interventionists and, yes, librarians.” Chacon said.

Chacon talks about what this prestigious award means to her and her future as an educator. She also expressed gratitude for Sheldon ISD, which has a community that values literacy and librarians.

“This award has made me realize that my work matters, which is not something that librarians hear all too often,” Chacon said. “Also, it is incredibly humbling, and I am honored to be recognized for my achievements when the librarian field is stacked with stellar humans, like the two finalists.” 

In the future, Chacon discusses how, as a first-generation college student, she has always wanted to obtain a doctorate and that she hopes to one day still do that.

“Until then, I want to keep connecting with others and growing and learning.”

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