Janice Lee

“As a school librarian, I get to see the big picture... I enjoy collaborating with teachers, trying new things, and working together to build meaningful lessons.”


School of Teacher Education - Secondary

COEAA Spotlight on Janice Lee

Growing Up

I grew up on Oʻahu and attended Waimānalo Elementary School. In addition to the core subjects, we were offered a variety of enrichment activities. I learned to embroider in second grade, participated in an interschool exchange in fouth grade, and played in a bottle band in fifth grade. After school, my mom took my sisters and me to Japanese language school in Kailua. We would often walked to the Kailua Recreation Center to take classes like ceramics, candle making, and other crafts. My family later moved to ʻAiea, and I graduated from ʻAiea High School. My high school friends and I still keep in touch, primarily through our 19-person group text.

Road to College

I was initially planning to major in elementary education because I liked children. I also really liked math, but I didn’t think I could be a creative math teacher. My dad suggested that I try physics because it used a lot of math. I hadn’t taken physics in high school, so my very first physics course was Physics 170, a requirement for engineering majors. Needless to say, I struggled to keep up! I was so lost; I didn’t know what I didn’t know. But I was stubborn and persistent. And I had a scholarship to become a science teacher, so I just had to press on! Then, during student teaching, I taught Conceptual Physics and it changed my life! (Ironically, Conceptual Physics minimizes the math and focuses on understanding the ideas.) Although I still like math, I love helping students understand the scientific ideas and have been a fan of Conceptual Physics ever since!

Degrees & Career

• University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, Bachelor of Education in Secondary Education, 1990
• University of Michigan, Master of Science in Science Education, 1991
• University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, Master of Library & Information Science, 2008

• Waialua High & Intermediate School – Math and Science Teacher
• Hawaiʻi Baptist Academy – Math Teacher and Assistant Christian Activities Director
• Moanalua High School – Math and Science Teacher
• Pearl City Highlands Elementary School – Librarian
• Mililani Uka Elementary School – Librarian

Becoming a School Librarian

To be honest, I probably didn’t know what I was getting into! Growing up, my mom took my sisters and me to the Kailua Public Library every week, and the school librarian at Waimānalo Elementary introduced me to great books. At ʻAiea Intermediate, I learned to use the Reader’s Guide to Periodicals, which I continued to use through college!

But I didn’t realize how much the profession had evolved. Information is no longer limited to what is printed on paper, so we don’t have to go somewhere to access it. Today, I often teach in the classrooms instead of the library so the students can use their assigned chromebooks to participate.

As a school librarian, I get to see the big picture. I’m not an expert on every subject for every grade level, but I try to familiarize myself with their standards and curricula as much as possible. I especially look for areas I might be able to provide resources or instruction to support teachers and students. I enjoy collaborating with teachers, trying new things, and working together to build meaningful lessons. I’m very grateful for the teachers’ willingness to share their students with me.

One of the greatest challenges for school librarians today is finding time to teach everything students need to be well-equipped lifelong learners. Although many educators might say the same thing, this is especially challenging for school librarians because Hawaiʻi doesn’t have any BOE-recognized school library standards. Thus, school library goals tend to be overlooked and are not consistently addressed within a school. I think this is also a challenge for our school system as we strive to provide an equitable educational experience for all students.

Importance of Media Literacy

As a school librarian, I used to be concerned about teaching students to evaluate and use information for research and academic purposes. But now, I realize they need these skills for life! How do we help students make sense of all this information as well as navigate the different forms of media it comes in (text, images, photos, audio, video)? I want my students to be able to discern fact from fiction and be cognizant of biases, so they can make wise decisions.

We can begin to teach students to be media literate even at a young age. I ask students to look at illustrations in picture books and infer how the character feels or predict what will happen next. We live in such an image-rich society that we need to be able to “read” pictures. I’ve also had students look at advertisements to consider their purposes, biases, and possible deceptions. I want them to be able to identify what is being said as well as consider what was omitted. Finally, I try to train students to pay attention to their emotional reactions when viewing or listening to media because emotions often trigger our responses and are used to influence our actions.

Three Fun Facts

1. As a preschooler, I was on a local TV show called Romper Room.
2. I lived in China for two years where I learned Mandarin, enjoyed the street food, and rode a bicycle with the best of them!
3. I have a Pinterest board of quirky upcycled outdoor art that I dream of making for my garden when I grow up.

Final Thoughts

I heard on a podcast a few months ago that at one university, their College of Education has some kind of K–12 school library, where their teachers in training get a chance to learn about the resources a school library offers. They may even have school librarians on staff to collaborate with the teacher trainees on their lessons, so when these new teachers enter the field, they know how they can use their school libraries. I think it’d be great if UHM & UH West ʻOahu had something like this.

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