Being the Change She Wants to See in the Schools
Two words come to mind after spending time talk- ing to Shannon McClintock Miller and reading her website and blog posts: change and voice. Change, as
in fundamentally changing the way schools operate. And
voice, as in listening to what kids have to say and giving
them the tools to broadcast their ideas far and wide.
Miller is the district teacher librarian and technology coordinator at the Van Meter Community School in Iowa, and she
has been instrumental in bringing change to the school and
voice to the students during the four years she’s worked there.
“I always had a love of creating, innovation, technology,
reading, and learning,” she says. “I wanted to create a school
community that infused all those things. I wanted to make a
difference in the lives of the students and others.”
And colleagues and students credit her for doing just that.
• She helped put laptops into the hands of every student in
• She co-teaches a personal learning network class with the
principal of a school in Philadelphia. The two classrooms
connect via Skype, and students learn how to build communities using tools such as Facebook, Twitter, and Animoto.
• She brings popular authors, game and software designers,
and other experts into the classrooms via Skype.
• She connects classrooms—from kindergarten to grade
12—to peers in other states to share learning.
• She oversees an online photography club called Club
Click, which taps into a hobby that gives students opportunities, ideas, support, and the tools they need to create,
learn, and collaborate with others.
“She is an extraordinary teacher, and she is so talented at ev-
erything she does,” says Julia Albaugh, one of Miller’s students.
“She has encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and
get involved in the National Honor Society. She has helped me
have a voice through my PLN and through Twitter.”
Miller admits she couldn’t do it alone. She has the support of
the staff, principal, superintendent, and school board, as well
as parents and students. Van Meter has become a place where
students find and pursue their interests and where students and
staff alike provide learning and leadership, Miller says.
“We are part of an environment filled with respect, creativity, collaboration, connecting, thinking, learning, and
change,” Miller says. “At Van Meter, we want students to find
PHOTO CREDIT: MEGAN ENOS SKOGERSON
their passion. We encourage them to think, lead, and serve.
We want them to be part of something bigger outside of the
walls of their school and into the world. This is where every
one of our students is going to make a difference.”
Miller joined ISTE in 2009. Not content to be a passive
member, she decided to get involved. She serves on the
SIGMS Advocacy Committee, writes articles and tips for
L&L, presented at ISTE 2010 in Denver, and will do so again
in Philadelphia this year.
Even with all that on her plate, Miller makes herself available to teachers during school hours and on weekends to
teach them to blog, Skype, and use Twitter, You Tube, and
Diigo. She also keeps her library website ( http://tinyurl.com/
yyde2gw) packed with resources, ideas, and information.
And she reaches out beyond the school walls. Early in the
morning, after school, and during her lunch hour, she Skypes with teachers, administrators, and even students around
the United States to talk about the role of the teacher librarian and offer advice about how ed tech can change education.
Colleagues often ask her why she devotes so much time to
help schools outside of her community.
“It’s my passion,” she says. “It’s not enough for just Van
Meter to change. It’s got to be universal change.”
—Diana Fingal is senior editor of L&L.