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Redefining the School Librarian Role for the Future of Education

A conversation with Josh Stumpenhorst of Naperville Community School District 203, IL

Josh Stumpenhorst is the Learning Commons Director for Naperville Community School District 203 in Illinois. He will be leading a variety of presentations around the current and future state of the library media specialist at the upcoming 2020 Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC) this coming January in Miami.

In a time where many districts are cutting back and eliminating librarian roles, Stumpenhorst’s district decided to double down, concentrating instead on developing “Learning Commons” in place of traditional libraries. The results were transformative. Not only did the roles of librarians change, but the entire learning space transitioned through a shift in mindset.

Stumpenhorst truly feels he has the best job going in education. His expanded role as Learning Commons Director allows him to interact with a variety of creative tools, including 3D printers, laser cutters, woodcutting, drone flying, and of course, the traditional book-oriented activities. 

There is a pride that Stumpenhorst embodies in promoting student ownership of learning while threading in elements of fun. As he adds, “Learning is natural at a young age. Yet, when [students] go to school, you slowly see it start to erode and be replaced by questions, not their own. We tell them what to learn, when to learn, and how to learn it. I’m trying to push back on that in my space. Everything we [bring] into our space, everything that we do, all of our programs ─ most of them are brought up by the kids.”

He is looking forward to his first time presenting at this year’s FETC, sharing with fellow teachers the breakthroughs occurring in his district. He is proud of the support of the community at large in providing the foundations and funding to help students creatively learn.

When presenting at conferences, Stumpenhorst is acutely aware that every community has its nuance. He realizes that his particular narrative may not adapt perfectly to other teachers’ environments. As a result, he likes to provide a disclaimer, “When you listen to anybody or read anybody’s book or blog, you have to take the pieces that fit your community. Sometimes, we try to bring things to scale and, by doing that, we lose the quality of what we’re actually trying to do. It’s always about our kids, the ones that we have in our school. What can we do, and what can we pull?”

About Josh Stumpenhorst

Josh Stumpenhorst is a Learning Commons Director at Lincoln Junior High School in Naperville, IL which is part of Naperville Community School District 203. He served as a 6th grade English and Social Science teacher for 13 years prior to taking the Learning Commons Director position. Josh oversees the Library, Makerspace, Video Production Lab and school arcade.

His work has been recognized by the International Society of Technology Educators, naming him a member of their Emerging Leaders Class. Josh has also been recognized as the Illinois Computer Educators, Educator of the Year and was named Illinois Teacher of the Year.

In addition, he was recognized with a California Casualty Teaching Excellence Award by the National Education Association and was the Illinois Education Association’s Excellence in Teaching Award winner. Josh was also named as a Pearson Foundation Global Learning Fellow.

Follow Josh Stumpenhorst on Twitter

The 40th anniversary Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC) will take place January 14-17, 2020 in Miami, Fla. Registration is now open at Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC)

FETC 2020 40th Anniversary

Further Reading
This post includes mentions of a partner of MindRocket Media Group the parent company of edCircuit
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