Rochelle “Ro” Menendez is both an innovative librarian at Cannaday Elementary School and an avid Dot Day enthusiast. As a dedicated teacher-librarian on a mission to “prov[e] to readers that the reading experience is a gift, not a heavy load, through our shared experiences in a safe and inspiring environment,” Ro does everything from curating the library’s collection to providing access to a makerspace to leading the Dot Day festivities at her school! After seeing Ro’s creative tweets and Instagram pictures on Dot Day 2017, we reached out to Ro to connect the dots.
1) How did you first learn about Dot Day?
In 2015, I started my journey as a school librarian, and missed the opportunity to celebrate Dot Day because I didn’t know about this amazing celebration! I learned of it after the fact, when my Twitter PLN (Professional Learning Network), composed of new and seasoned librarians, were sharing their wonderful and inspiring activities! I was sad, but vowed not to miss it ever again, that is why during my second year, and this my third year, we have celebrated the magic of creating and believing in ourselves on September 15-ish!
2) Based on your dot-filled Instagram, it seems like Cannaday Elementary School really made their mark! Would you please describe a memorable moment from your dot filled celebration in 2017?
As each grade level created their dot using particular materials or techniques, the excitement of creating was infectious. When they saw the result of their efforts, hearing them gasp and exclaim “It’s so beautiful!”, “Look what I made!”, and “WOW!” confirmed what the message of The Dot is all about, taking a chance, giving it your best, and marveling at the results. I feel so privileged to have been able to provide them with this experience, regardless of the mess we created in the library!
I also have to mention our Dot Day Family Event - it fills my heart with joy to see readers coming after school with their favorite adult … and providing a space where they can bond, create, take risks, laugh, and live memorable experiences that make the home-school connection a valuable one.
3) Can you share more about the Family Dots and expanding the Dot Day experience beyond the classroom?
I love displaying the work readers create in the library throughout the year and our hallway was filling up with dots, and it looked spectacular. I had asked for the second year in a row that faculty create dots for a Faculty Wall, but as I was looking at our hallway I felt something was missing. It all starts and ends with family, I heard someone say that once, and it is oh so very true! So I decided to take a risk and invite families to create dots together, I wasn’t sure they’d take a chance to “make their mark,” but I thought it was worth it to give them the opportunity. So many families sent their dots! I intermixed them with the faculty dots, and placed them next to student created ones to give the full picture of how together we can make an even greater mark on our readers’ and each others’ lives!
Some families made a dot for each member, some did a side by side, their child made a dot and an adult made another. I could just imagine the conversations, excitement, laughter and fun they had creating them! I made sure they were all displayed for our Family Event. I saw some of our kids taking their adult to the wall to find their Family Dot. One mom even told me “The first thing I did was go to the Family Dot Wall to see if it was true, to see if our family’s was up there, and it was! We loved working together on this!”
When I sent home the Family Dot request, I included two YouTube links; one of Peter H. Reynolds reading The Dot, and another of the story being read in Spanish, because we have many Spanish speaking families. Kids and parents shared with me that they had listened to the story at home. This connected the experiences we had in the library, the discussions of what we thought the message of the story was, with more personal discussions at home. As a parent, I know how hard it can be to get kids to talk about what’s going on in school. Sometimes it’s hard to visualize what kids, that are more willing to share, describe about their day. Hopefully being able to listen to the story facilitated those conversations!
4) On your blog, you mentioned creating a script and having students act for Dot Day 2016. That is an awesome idea! Did this come to fruition?
It’s still one of my goals, but it didn’t happen this year. Thinking about how crazy busy the beginning of the year is, I’m hoping that it is a project 4th and 5th graders can work on during the end of Spring Semester, that way when the new school year comes around in August, we will have a script, props, and most of the actors in place, then we will make it happen! #GOALS !
5) You seem to be an inspiration for young dot makers in your community. Who or what inspires you to make your mark every day?
My biggest inspiration is my father. He was so influential in whom I am today, that I always try, in everything I do, to make him proud. He is kind, compassionate and so giving to everyone he meets. He taught me that reading is magical and powerful. He made sure I understood that you never give anything less than your best at everything you do. He showed me by example that I must answer the call to serve others, even at personal cost.
My drive and dedication comes from my students, my readers. They are so willing to trust, to learn, to be vulnerable even when their lives sometimes have been so much harder than anything I have lived through, that I cannot fathom showing up with anything but my full heart to teach and to learn with them, every day.