Broken Arrow Express
READING RUSH: North Intermediate’s Librarian Gina Rackley loves to read and organize so, when choosing a career, she decided that there was no better place for her than the library. Rackley taught at three other school districts before coming to Broken Arrow. She has spent all of her 21 years in the district at North. She enjoys working with the students and the faculty. “Everyone jumps in to help one another,” she says. “We’re a family here.”
EMILY RAMSEY for GTR Newspapers
North Intermediate Librarian Gina Rackley does much more than organize books, although if that were all she did, she would easily be satisfied with that.
Rackley’s loves of reading and organizing make the library the right place for her to be. After working as a library aide in high school, she started thinking about Librarian as a possibly career path. Rackley also considered photography and journalism after working on her high school newspaper.
However, the combination of research, organization and reading eventually focused her on library science—the degree she received from Northeastern State University. “I am a teacher,” Rackley says after listing her many responsibilities. Rackley sees a different class in the library each week. She spends that week teaching students how to write a research paper, including how to find the proper topic and use MLA documentation.
Rackley realizes that a week is not enough time to get to know students so she especially looks forward to the times when students come in for extra instruction, such as before and after school and during lunch. “I tell kids to come in if they need help proofreading papers or researching or documenting,” she says. And she has found, through the years, that her students are not the only ones learning. One thing Rackley has learned is not to judge by appearances, she says. “A kid can have piercings and colored hair and be the best kid. They’re just trying to express themselves, and by the time they leave tenth grade, they’ve moved on from that.”
As the Internet became mainstream, Rackley saw the need to teach students the importance of finding reputable websites. “This age group has grown up with the Internet, and they think they know how to use it correctly,” she says. But there are certain things kids do not always pay much attention to, such as who is behind a website’s information. Rackley teaches them about domains and what to look for when determining a website’s authenticity.
She prides herself in her ability to match any student with a book. When students tell her they don’t like to read, she aims to learn what activities and subjects they enjoy. This drive to encourage reading stems from Rackley’s understanding that the time to nurture the love of reading in a youngster is short. “I think ninth grade is the last chance we have to get kids to like to read,” she says.
She also recognizes reading’s power to impact a person’s future. “If a student can read, they can succeed at anything. If they don’t like to read a fiction book, they may never open up that user manual.”
Rackley, who was named North’s Teacher of the Year this year, came to North 21 years ago. She had been working with Owasso Public Schools but wanted to live closer to her family. She had a friend who spoke well of North so Rackley applied and has not been disappointed.
Rackley recently lost her sister-in-law to cancer. Seven staff members and the principal at North came to the funeral in Arkansas. “That’s the way North has always been,” Rackley says. “We care about each other here.”