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Bonnie Howard, Library Media Specialist at Madison Elementary School, is a finalist for Alabama State Teacher of the Year. In the photo, Howard stands in front of Prague Castle in the Czech Republic while studying abroad. CONTRIBUTED

Bonnie Howard named finalist for Alabama Teacher of the Year

MADISON – The Alabama State Department of Education has named Bonnie Howard among 16 finalists for Alabama Teacher of the Year.

Howard works as Library Media Specialist at Madison Elementary School.

The state board next will lower candidates to four and then reveal the winner in May. Alabama’s Teacher of the Year serves as a full-time ambassador for education, gives workshops to various audiences and is eligible for the national title.

Before teaching, Howard worked as Public Health Environmentalist for Madison County. “Madison Elementary School has been my home since 2012,” she said.

Her sideline commitments include sponsoring BiblioTECHs, a club of fourth- and fifth-graders who are library ambassadors, learn library and technology skills and participate in purchasing new books.

Howard also serves on the budget committee, ‘building leadership’ team, as independent reading chairperson and sponsors two book fairs and multicultural night. “At the district level, I serve on the EL (English learners) team, 1:1 technology team and the new Transformative Teaching team to support digital literacy and computer standards,” she said.

Initially, Howard chose to work for Madison City Schools because her children were students and the educational opportunities impressed her. “I stayed with MCS because educators, staff, administrators and school board are second to none,” she said.

“I always feel so supported. The MCS vision, ‘Empowering All Students for Global Success,’ aligns with my teaching philosophy,” Howard said.

As Library Media Specialist, Howard has the unique opportunity to teach all students, grades K-5. She strives for the library to function as an extension of the classroom.

“I work collaboratively with teachers to design lessons that empower students to be critical thinkers, enthusiastic readers and global collaborators,” Howard said. “I approach education as a safe place to land when trying something new . . . where mistakes are viewed as opportunities for learning and not a projection of failure.”

Howard transforms challenges to successes. A fifth-grade math teacher wanted collaborative activities for division. Finding a “division house” activity, Howard created a Canva template of a house’s blank outline, which students illustrated with Canva.

“This activity included math and digital literacy . . . an engaging win,” Howard said. “Helping students amplify their learning and become critical-thinking, creative, collaborative communicators has been an exciting opportunity.”

In another success, early readers needed their first chapter books. “I’ve curated books for students . . . like a personal book concierge,” Howard said. “Students come back looking for similar books. Nothing is more rewarding than helping students fall in love with reading.”

Howard is a two-time Fund For Teachers fellow. In February, she materialized her Fund For Teachers fellowship into the library’s “Fairy Tale February.” With help from MCS media specialists and theatre teachers, the experiment morphed a district-wide collaboration. (http://bit.ly/3Us4D6L)

With her 2020 grant, she documented art, landscape and architecture in Germany, Poland, Czech Republic and Hungary that inspired classic fairy tales. In 2022, an Innovation Grant led Howard to design a “culturally affirmative and linguistically accessible library.”

Howard earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial hygiene at the University of North Alabama. She then received a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Athens State University and a master’s degree with concentration in library media from the University of West Alabama. She holds certification for several disciplines/ages.

Her husband Chris works as a Senior Application Developer at ADTRAN. Their daughter June Barr is Data Rights Manager at Collins Aerospace; her husband Aaron is an Aerospace Engineer (civilian/U.S. Army). Son Price is a Software Developer for a local defense contractor, and Price’s fiance, Arielle Gallien, will graduate in nursing from UNA in May.

In 2020, Chris and Bonnie bought a small RV, named Oliver (oliverthe.world). “I’m a super proud ‘Bebe’ to grandchildren Eleanor and Ezekiel,” Bonnie said.

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