Indianapolis Public Schools librarian Kathleen Rauth has a mission: Making sure that the students she works with can read books that reflect their lives and broaden their horizons.
Each day, she spends a few hours reading blogs and roving for titles online, said Rauth, who was named IPS Teacher of the Year at a surprise ceremony today in the gym of the Center for Inquiry at School 27, where she was joined by her family and hundreds of students.
Rauth is always looking for empowering stories that go beyond the traditional narrative of African American families in poverty or Hispanic families sneaking across the border. Those stories can be harder to find, she said, but they exist.
“If I’m going to ask children to value reading and value being engaged with me and inquiry,” she said, “then I have to value what they are bringing to the table.”
Recently, Rauth has been trying to build up the collection of books about children with same-sex parents, she said. A little girl ran up to tell Rauth that she had found a book with “two daddies,” she said.
“She said, ‘I have two daddies!’ and I said, ‘yeah, I know you do,’ ” Rauth said.
Rauth began her career as a creative drama teacher and taught in the classroom before becoming a librarian nine years ago. She spent most of her 30-year career teaching in Chicago before coming to Indianapolis three years ago.
Superintendent Lewis Ferebee presented Rauth with the Teacher of the Year award.
“I am the son of a retired media specialist,” Ferebee said. “I know personally what you do to advance literacy.”
As IPS teacher of the year, Rauth will represent educators across the district, sharing her approach to teaching with other educators. Rauth, who was one of 10 finalists for the award, will also have a chance to become Indiana Teacher of the Year in 2017.
For Rauth, the recognition was an unexpected honor.
“It’s crazy. I don’t feel like I do anything more than what a really good teacher does everywhere,” she said. “I’m speechless, which doesn’t happen that often.”