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BCPS celebrates National School Library Month

Meet Jeffrey Darchicourt, library media specialist, Holabird Middle School
04/03/2018

Meet Jeffrey Darchicourt, library media specialist, Holabird Middle School

As a 19-year educator at Holabird Middle in Dundalk, Jeffrey Darchicourt feels like he has one of the best jobs around.

He’s lucky enough to work close to where his family lives in Sparrows Point, and after spending 17 years teaching social studies, it was important to him to take a new step in his career. That step was into the library, where he’s now in his second year as library media specialist. “I think this can be one of the most rewarding jobs in the building, just because you get a chance to work with adults, kids, and administration,” he says. “For me, at this point in my life, it’s a really good job to have. As I learn more, I feel like it gets easier to keep taking that next step.”

Connecting with Kids

Student relationships are important to Darchicourt. When students visit his library, he wants them to connect him with the space. As a result, his office space in the faculty work area connected to the library gets little use. “I’m real personable. I’ve always had an easy time making connections and talking with kids. In the hall, I’m always talking to kids. I refuse to go back in the office, unless they need something, so my face is always attached to here in the library. I think that’s an important part of it. They need to see your face.”

Darchicourt makes his library available at lunch, whether kids want to play on their computers, check out new fiction titles, or do an activity like making a volcano using instructions from a book. “It’s about making the library fun. They come over from the elementary school, where they have library as a special, and you have to get that hook into them in sixth grade,” he says.

Promoting reading is also a big part of the job. He tries to have reading incentives that change throughout the year. Most recently he ran the Winter Reading Olympics. It had different events, with different goals, and different prizes. “The kids, when they come in and check a book out, they’ll get excited.  ‘Oh, you’ve got the second one in.’   I’ve got a little mailbox for book suggestions.  If I get a book in and deliver it to them in the class, that feeling is great. Someone really enjoys what you just did for them,” he says.

Darchicourt makes use of weekly flexible academic time built into the Holabird schedule called SOAR time. While students can use this time to get caught up on missing assignments, a popular option for many is reading or checking out books. “Some days you have to turn people away,” he says.

He also loves reading with the Functional Academic Life Skills classes, and taking part in the school’s Book Buddies program, where older students read with the fourth and fifth graders who are also housed in their building.

 

Collaborating with Teachers

With his years of classroom experience, Darchicourt finds teaching and co-teaching some of the most rewarding parts of his job. “I like being able to bounce off each other,” he says of co-teaching. “I may say something and the kids don’t pick up on it right away. And then she’ll add something in, and I’ll add something else in. Before you know it, you’ve surrounded the kids 360 with what’s going on. We’ve got different ideas and people who are knowledgeable about the topic, whatever the topic is. That’s the part that I really like.”

He mentions working with Grade 8 American History teacher Nicole Seifert. He recently had her class in the library to research freedom of speech and to engage in debate. He’s also had them in to do research for their National History Day projects. This included choosing topics, making thesis statements, learning to cite sources with NoodleTools, and making use of print and digital research resources. This last part is one he finds particularly important. “With so many resources out there, teachers don’t always know the things that are available to them with BCPSOne and the digital content. They’re often so tied to their content, this kind of opens it up for them a little bit. I just feel like that’s the instructional partner piece. You can say, ‘Hey, come in. Let’s do this together.’”

Darchicourt also mentions working with Grade 6 Language Arts teacher Juistina Chiappelli.  When her class was in for a recent lesson, they made sure to make time for book checkout, and he counted on her to help him make a book display. “I try to spotlight a teacher every so often,” Darchicourt says. “She picked some books and wrote some sticky notes on why she liked certain authors.”

Darchicourt often sees Chiappelli’s classes in his library as they complete the digital citizenship lessons that are being co-taught across BCPS by library media specialists and classroom teachers. He sees these lessons, where he teaches about topics such as Internet safety, cyberbullying, digital footprints, copyright, and information literacy, as an important part of what he does. “Teaching digital citizenship is one of our main roles as information specialists,” he says “Even if it’s just a little bit of us bringing it to them, they need to hear it from multiple fronts. This is in our direct wheelhouse.”

 

Leading from the Library

With his roles working with students and teachers across his entire building, Darchicourt has embraced his opportunity to lead. “You’re kind of stepping up,” he says with satisfaction. “You’re in on some of the leadership decisions. They’ll say ‘Hey, what do you think about this?’” One of those ideas was hosting a series of literacy nights where students read poems and other works, and give performances to a congratulatory audience. He’s already had two, and he already has seen the events grow in popularity.

He describes himself as a man with many hats. Along with his other roles, he helps with testing. He’s also his school’s technology liaison, which brings different challenges every day.

“What surprises me is how many different things you’re really responsible for,” Darchicourt says of his job. “It’s not like one little thing all day long. Here, you can get pulled in a million directions. Sometimes, what you planned with your day, it’s like ‘Whoa, we’ve got to change all those things up and reevaluate,’” he says.

Still, Darchicourt can’t think of many things he’d change. “I don’t get too frustrated,” he says. “I’m pretty happy.”

Submitted by Jeff Flynn, Good News Ambassador and Library Media Specialist, Stemmers Run Middle School

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Baltimore County Public Schools
6901 Charles Street
Towson, Maryland 21204
443-809-4554

Report Fraud, Waste, or Abuse

Darryl L. Williams, Ed.D.
Superintendent

E-mail Dr. Williams

Follow @BCPS_Sup

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©2020 Baltimore County Public Schools. All rights reserved.