Janet McClelland, known by her students as Ms Janet, is retiring from C.P. Blakley Elementary School after 15 years as librarian.
Though she has spent the majority of her time as a librarian, McClelland began her career at C.P. Blakley as an education assistant (E.A.) before taking over as the librarian.
“I started here as an E.A. for special needs then I went into the library,” McClelland told The Sylvan Lake News in a recent interview before adding, “I still go back and forth.”
McClelland has used reading and the library to create a “safe place” for the students of C.P. Blakley, especially for students who are having a rough time in school, at home or both.
McClelland says the library is place where students can come if they need some quiet time to collect themselves, or just “cool off” for a while.
While her favourite part of the past nearly two decades have been working with the children at the school – particularly the kindergarten students – it wasn’t what she had originally foreseen herself doing.
“I was originally in construction, but I had a child, a son, and I couldn’t move around so much anymore,” she said.
After working as a bartender for roughly six years after the birth of her son, McClelland went back to school.
It was there the idea of working with children, particularly elementary school children, was planted.
The rest, she said, is history.
McClelland has spent her time connecting with both children and families at the library while teaching everyone about the joys of literacy and a good book can bring.
When a child asks about a book that was read to them, or becomes invested in a series, McClellan says she knows she has caught them.
“If you don’t catch them, make them interested in reading, by Grade 2, then you have lost them,” she said.
“It’s those moments where you can see you caught them that are the best. The ones where they come in and ask about a book.”
McClelland feels in today’s world books are still important, and the world shouldn’t be too dependant on technology such as iPads.
“They just talk at you. There is no real comprehension going on.”
She also claims there is no comfort in electronics, saying she can’t see any “curling up with an iPad” like a person would with a book.
“I’m just a reader, always have been. There is nothing better than curling up on a cold day with a book, blanket and cup of hot chocolate.”
By getting a child hooked on reading actual books, McClellan said you can see the impact in all parts of life, and it will be something that sticks with them throughout their childhood and well into adulthood.
“The teachers will recognize it right away. They will come in and tell me so-and-so is reading more and is a little more focused. Or their comprehension has gotten better,” McClellan said, adding reading impacts all parts of life like grocery shopping as an adult.
Janet Reddekopp, who will be taking over as librarian at C.P. Blakely next autumn, agrees teaching children the importance of reading and literacy early is very important.
“It creates a safe place, either through the book or just here in the library,” Reddekopp said.
Reddekopp, who has worked at the school since 2004, is looking forward to her next year in the library, especially now that is has it’s own dedicated space.
McClelland is looking to take it easy after retirement, and hopes to find a plot of land to build a little cottage for herself.
“I’ve ran for the first 60 years of my life, I’m looking to walk for the next 20,” McClellan said.
Though she will be retired from teaching at the end of June, McClellan says she will return to C.P. Blakely to visit and to be a substitute for Reddekopp when needed.
“I’m going to miss the little people, I really am,” she said.