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Westminster High School media specialist, described as a digital leader, receives award from McDaniel College

Kim Johnson’s first teaching job out of college was a high school social studies position in Pennsylvania, where she got a glimpse into her future.

“I had a classroom that was a converted computer lab ... in the back. I called it kind of my ‘Gateway Classroom,’ because as I was teaching I was also seeing the action that was happening in the library,” Johnson said. “I thought, you know what? That might be a really great fit for me.”

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Johnson moved to Carroll County and pursued a master’s degree at McDaniel College, earning a degree in school librarianship in 2012. She spent six years as the media specialist at South Carroll High School, and this year is her first in that role at Westminster High School.

Last year she obtained administration certification from McDaniel, and the Manchester resident recently received something else from her alma mater; Johnson is the winner of the 2020 Joseph R. Bailer Award, given to a master’s degree recipient who has made a significant contribution to the field of education.

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Johnson was named the Maryland School Librarian of the Year in 2017, and was a finalist for Carroll County Teacher of the Year in 2018 and 2019.

Kim Johnson, media specialist at Westminster High School
Kim Johnson, media specialist at Westminster High School (Courtesy Photo)

“Kim has done a phenomenal job of transitioning to Westminster this past year,” Westminster High Principal John Baugher said. “She didn’t want to come in and totally change everything right away, which is a good thing. She came in and kind of put her own flavor into the media center. As the year has gone on, she has continued to make those changes.”

And this year has seen its share of changes.

Johnson became a leader on the digital front, Baugher said, when schools closed a few weeks ago because of the coronavirus pandemic. Johnson said Carroll County Public Schools’ introduction to Google Classroom back in January has been timely.

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Carroll’s collective distance learning began March 30.

“I feel like our county has probably moved two years in two weeks, in terms of our teaching ability,” Johnson said. “We’re kind of forced into a situation where it’s our only option.”

Baugher said Johnson has “shined” in an otherwise uncertain time.

“Between her and a couple of the other staff members, they have become our Google specialists, if you want to call them that,” he said. “She’s the Google queen, I guess, in that sense.”

Johnson, who grew up near Philadelphia and earned her bachelor’s degree from Messiah College (Class of 2005), serves as the faculty adviser for Westminster’s Book Club. She’s also involved as the secretary for the Maryland Association of School Librarians, and is a member of the association’s Professional Development Committee.

Johnson has presented at the district and state levels on topics including school library collaborative work spaces, the newly adopted National School Library Standards and diverse literature for young adults.

Johnson’s recent publication in the American Association of School Librarians book “Content-Area Collaborations for Secondary Grades,” titled “Hand-lettered Infographics,” examines the intersection of fine arts, graphic texts and student research. Students collaborated with a local hand-lettering expert, who helped them develop their own infographics that reflected their research topics.

Last year, Johnson conducted a Human Library event in Carroll County, hosting 32 students as “books” and 200 “readers.”

Her work at Westminster High has taken on a different look amid coronavirus concerns. Johnson said she has been acting as tech support for school staff and students’ families as they make a digital transition to learning.

“She has just really stepped forward and become a true leader,” Baugher said.

Johnson said it wasn’t too difficult making the switch from South Carroll to Westminster, and despite not being in the building she’s still focused on creating relationships with teachers and students to improve the school’s media center environment.

“I enjoy working with both staff and students. I like working with small groups as well as large groups. I like reading, I like research,” Johnson said. “I really feel like I have found my spot in education.”

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