Handwritten cards adorn the large, three-dimensional tree that is prominent on one of the many decorated walls of the library at Benjamin Banneker Charter Public School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Librarian Jennifer Gordon asks students at the start of each year to fill these cards with their hopes and dreams for the future. Throughout the year, Gordon uses the cards to help her recommend books that she hopes will engage and inspire her students and spark a lifelong love of reading and learning. Banneker’s students love to read. And much of that can be attributed to Ms. Gordon’s passing on her passion for a good story, a good laugh, and a good book. She goes to great lengths to celebrate books and reading, posting students’ book reviews and decorated book jackets outside the library and creating comfortable cozy nooks throughout the library for casual reading and discussion. Gordon encourages her young readers to write to celebrated authors like Mo Willems; the authors often write back, much to students’ delight. Walk into the library when Gordon is reading to a class and you’ll see a fully engaged group of students, eyes wide open, watching her animated moves and listening to the many voices she uses. Students wave their hands eagerly to answer her follow-up questions with reasoned, well-thought-out comments. Banneker’s students flock to Gordon at lunchtime and consider her one of “the cool teachers”—whatever she does, from reading to camping to skiing, they want to be part of it.
Gordon collaborates with Banneker’s ELA and reading coaches to piggyback on their curriculum and put the right resources in their hands. All of her lessons and units are based on the rigorous Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks and align with Banneker’s overall goal of educating the whole child. She makes sure students have books that stretch them and help to expand their skills. Gordon works with small reading groups in the mornings, both to challenge advanced readers and supplement those who need help. She chairs the specialists’ cluster team where art music and technology are integrated into the school’s rigorous STEM curriculum. When not in the library, Ms. Gordon can be found leading professional development, mentoring new teachers, and working with colleagues to develop a classroom culture that includes problem-solving and kinesthetic learning. And it’s working: The school’s MCAS (Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System) ELA scores are among the top in the state.
Gordon also plays a key role as a long-term member of the Banneker community. She leads the Adventure Club, which takes fifth- and sixth-graders on monthly outdoor excursions, including overnight camping. Gordon helps students fundraise for and chaperones the school’s annual sixth-grade trip to Washington, D.C., building in literacy before and during the trip. Gordon’s ability to make learning engaging and fun happens in and out of the library. She created a maker space, coordinates Field Day and daily morning announcements, is an active member of the school band, and runs book clubs for younger students. When former students drop by, they make a beeline for the library to tell Gordon about all the books they’ve read.
Gordon earned a bachelor’s in English from Worcester State College in 2000 and a master’s in library science from Simmons College in 2002.
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