Even after graduating, many students are still uncertain about their future, but that was not the case for Joanna Freking-Smith. Joanna graduated from the University of Northern Iowa with a bachelor’s degree in English teaching in 2014. She knew from a young age that she wanted to be a teacher, but she also had a passion for technology and research, which is why she decided to pursue a teacher librarian endorsement. The majority of teacher librarians in Iowa work as classroom teachers for a few years before earning this endorsement, but Joanna decided to blaze her own path.
Shortly after graduation, she enrolled in the school library studies program at UNI, where she earned her master’s degree in 2016.
The decision to pursue the career of a teacher librarian was extremely easy for Joanna. “Becoming an English teacher was still a dream of mine, but I also had a love of technology, literature, research and learning. I wanted to do more than just help the students in the classroom, I wanted to help students throughout the school I ended up at,” said Joanna.
While completing her student teaching as an undergraduate, she conducted research and realized that the school libraries were often not well-utilized. This realization prompted her to place a personal emphasis on teaching students literacy and research skills, while also helping students find books they love.
As a graduate student, Joanna was a graduate assistant for the Division of School Library Studies, worked on campus and helped faculty with research. She had a unique and eye-opening experience because of these combined experiences
“The rest of my classmates were already teaching in schools, but I was able to see the role of the teacher librarian in schools in a different way because I got to work with the experts. The two years [I] spent as a graduate assistant in that program really helped me with the job I have today, and the M.A. program itself made it possible for me to get my dream job,” said Joanna.
Joanna currently works at Storm Lake Middle School as the middle school teacher librarian. She teaches technology classes and encourages reading in a very diverse tech-focused school. “I go to classrooms to work with teachers and their classrooms any chance I get,” said Joanna.
This year she created a Makerspace and hopes that in following years to encourage more and more students to use it throughout the day.
For more information visit the Storm Lake Middle School Media Center’s website that Joanna created.