Friday, September 22, 2017

Free Test Preparation Resources for West Hills Students

Did you know that every 10th and 11th grade student at West Hills will be taking the PSAT on Wednesday, October 11th?

With students preparing for the PSAT and other important tests such as the SAT, ACT, or AP exams - the library has created a 1-page quick guide to some key test prep resources worth checking out.
The quick guide is not intended to be an exhaustive list of resources, and keep in mind that both the West Hills and Santee Branch libraries offer print copies of test preparation books to check out, as well. Still, the four sources highlighted provide quality, FREE, online content that students are encouraged to use as they prepare.

Here is a quick overview of featured sources:
  • College Board & ACT - Whenever students have questions about tests, we always point them to the actual testing organizations as the authoritative sources for answers. A good place for all students to start is by checking out the tips and links from these organizations.
  • Khan Academy - Khan Academy is a free website that provides online learning tutorials and exercises, including a growing body of content directly tied to test preparation. Students may even link up their CollegeBoard accounts to get personalized SAT practice recommendations based on PSAT and SAT results.
  • PrepSTEP - PrepSTEP is a subscription-based online resource provided for FREE to GUHSD students. Students simply create an account and log in using the link on the West Hills Library homepage. More information about PrepSTEP is available here.
  • TERC (Testing & Education Reference Center) - TERC is another subscription-based online resource that students may access for free if they have a San Diego County Library (SDCL) public library card. If students do not already have an SDCL library card, here are two options for getting one:
    • OPTION 1: Visit an SDCL Library - Student (AND parent/guardian, if under 18) go in person to an SDCL library with a valid photo ID and proof of current address. 
      • BENEFIT 1: Students get a card right on the spot!
      • BENEFIT 2: Get unlimited access to the entire SDCL collection, including print books, physical media, and online resources such as TERC, online databases, eBooks, and more.
      • BENEFIT 3: Your local library professionals are always happy to help you find necessary information on TERC, books available for checkout, programs to attend, and more!
      • SPECIAL OFFER (while supplies last): Students who visit the Santee Branch with a parent to get a card may get a FREE candy bar!
    • OPTION 2: Apply at West Hills - (1) Students (or teachers) get paper applications from the West Hills Library, (2) Students fill it out and have a parent/guardian sign, (3) Applications are returned to Ms. Sannwald at the West Hills Library, (4) After applications are approved and processed - it may take at least several school days - students receive school-issued SDCL library cards at West Hills.
      • CONSIDERATION 1: Students do not get a card to use immediately. The whole process may take 1-2 weeks to complete.
      • CONSIDERATION 2: A school-issued card provides students with limited access to check out up to only 2 print books at a time. Having said that, students will still have full access to online resources, including TERC and other valuable databases, eBooks, and digital audiobooks! To "upgrade" cards in the future, students simply need to visit an SDCL branch in person with a parent/guardian.
      • BENEFIT 1: Students may get SDCL cards at school without having to make an extra trip with a parent to an SDCL branch location. This is a helpful option if students do not have transportation or time.
      • BENEFIT 2: Teachers may use this option with whole classes by coordinating with Ms. Sannwald.
Did you know? September also happens to be Library Card Sign-up Month!

Friday, September 15, 2017

Chromebook Troubleshooting Quick Guide and More...

As we enter our third year as a FutureForward school with 1:1 Chromebooks, we have found that many common Chromebook issues may be fixed through basic troubleshooting. To help teachers and students with these frequently encountered issues, we created a 1-page "quick guide" that was recently shared as a hard copy with staff members for posting in classrooms.

For Those Times You Don't Have Wifi...

This week, we experienced a brief wifi outage at school and people didn't know what to do! As perfect timing, the GUHSDtech team just happened to share a guide for using Chromebooks offline.

When Chromebooks Break...

Although the library does not provide "day loan" Chromebooks or chargers when students forget items, it is still the place to go when Chromebooks are broken (or lost/stolen) and cannot be fixed through basic troubleshooting. In these cases, students are checked out long-term loan or replacement items.

If you get the chance, please remind students that the deadline for purchasing Chromebook insurance is quickly approaching - September 30th is the last day to purchase insurance online.

As if to add to Jovan's birthday celebration, we received a batch of repaired Chromebooks from ETS today!

Saturday, January 21, 2017


I am grateful to work at West Hills! Just check out this recent sunrise over our campus.

I am grateful for our supportive families and community members! Look at what the PTSA recently surprised us with.

I am grateful we are able to keep the library doors open in the afternoon so that students have a safe place to study after school.

I am grateful to work with such highly qualified, dedicated, and caring colleagues! We love our students.

I am grateful for our students! They are our reason and inspiration for everything. I loved getting to see this student art come through the library recently.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Thoughts on the El Cajon Police Shooting

It is 11 o'clock at night, and I should be going to sleep, but my head is busy spinning, thinking about the recent police shooting that occurred in El Cajon. While West Hills is located in Santee, and at the surface, today may have functioned like just another regular day on campus, I know that my mind was very much distracted by these events, and I'm pretty sure that I am not alone in this.

As I am up tonight and scrolling through social media, I just want to throw my voice into the mix. It may be just me, but there has been an eerie lack of conversation on the topic when I go through my Facebook feed. Living in San Diego, I expected to see people posting more, and yet what I have mostly noticed is a lot of silence. [NOTE: This also made me think about the Freakonomics podcast episode "Is the Internet Being Ruined." Listen and you'll hear the connection!]

Of course, perhaps no one really knows what to say or to post. Perhaps being rendered speechless is a pretty normal behavior. After all, as I write this, I myself don't quite know what I'm trying to convey, except that I find the silence to be deafening at a time when people are suffering.

Another thought I have is that perhaps no one wants to say something that could hurt others. No one wants to be perceived as being anti-police or anti-black, and so silence may be a proper response of respect. Also, perhaps people are wisely waiting to learn more before expressing themselves.

Along the lines of waiting to learn more, a helpful On the Media "Breaking News Consumer's Handbook" that I recently came across suggests just that. The first point is that "in the immediate aftermath, news outlets will get it wrong." While some of the points from the handbook may not directly relate (e.g., there's almost never a second shooter), I think that the overall guide provides practical information literacy ideas for making sense of what is a timely and highly relevant situation.

Although I haven't seen much discussion of the shooting and protests on my Facebook feed, I have found there is a lot of chatter on social media outlets that our students do use regularly, including Twitter and Snapchat. On these other platforms, students may be exposed to a constant stream of content that includes live video footage taken by everyday citizens. When thinking about media bias, it could be interesting for students to compare and contrast mainstream media news coverage with these other grassroots forms of reporting. How do they personally define and value the different forms of authority? How are narratives framed differently and with what potential impact?

Another aspect to consider regarding social media coverage is that students may encounter a number of charged, discriminatory, and/or hateful comments and "trolling." My hope is that students are not also sources of these comments. Even just reading them, though, may affect a student, and this presents an opportunity to have an authentic discussion about digital citizenship.

Finally, Santee is so close to El Cajon that the events hit home for all in our school community. At the same time, I think it is important to remember that we have a number of students who live in El Cajon and commute to West Hills. We have a number of students who work in El Cajon, and goodness knows they nearly all shop in El Cajon at Parkway Plaza. I can't go there without running into our students! These events have happened and continue to unfold in their space.

Along these lines, we likely have students who have some connection to those involved in the shooting, either in terms of knowing or relating to Alfred Olango's family and/or local law enforcement. We may have students who have made an effort to participate in the protests and others who have been fearful of them or angry about them. This is one of those moments when I feel the weight of responsibility in being an educator. We may feel helpless to change all of the inequities of our society, but we may listen. We may create safe spaces, and we may make sure students know that we care.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Free eBooks for Students and the WHHS Summer Reading Challenge!

Back in February, the Open eBooks project launched, providing children from "in-need families" with free access to popular eBook titles. Now, our West Hills students have access to set up Open eBook accounts by signing up via a Google Form. This is a great opportunity for our students to try reading eBooks for free. Although Open eBooks do not yet work on Chromebooks, see the recent announcement below:

Where can WHHS students sign up for Open eBooks?
 Read FREE eBooks
Information about Open eBooks, including the sign up form link, is on the school library's homepage:

What is the WHHS Summer Reading Challenge?

The library is hosting a WHHS Summer Reading Challenge to encourage students and staff to read for fun over the break. Students may stop by the library for a form or download a copy by going to the library homepage and looking for the yellow button. Remember, the challenge is also open for staff members!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

National Library Week and Extending the Circle of Gratitude

This morning, I arrived at work to discover an email from principal Robin Ballarin. In conjunction with National Library Week, she recognized the legacy of our school's string of librarian "Sues," which includes me.

NOTE: It was indeed serendipitous when I got hired as the third teacher librarian in the history of the school and realized that all three of us are named some variation of "Su-": Sue Arthur, Susan Schreiber, and Suzanne Sannwald.

Throughout the day, I have received thoughtful responses to Robin's email, and it reminds me that what I love most about being a librarian is getting to work in community with others. It is not just "my" library - it is our library, and I extend the kind acknowledgements to countless people who help enrich our school's library program.

While I cannot possibly name everyone, here are some people who regularly contribute to the West Hills Library:
  • Tech Specialist Jovan Bessette - My office mate and constant collaborator with all things tech, Jovan offers a calming influence, positivity when helping, and valuable mentoring for many students.
  • Student Library and Tech Aides - Our faithful cadre of student aides are essential to our daily operations - they help us in many ways, and we enjoy getting to know them, as well!
  • Custodial and Facilities Team - Given the square footage of the library, the number of trash cans, the amount of furniture, the occurrences of leaks, and more...this team works hard year round to ensure the library is a welcoming environment.
  • Individualized Instruction Team - Teachers, aides, and students have been great partners of the library. Currently, Aide Ashley Anagnos (previously Julie Thomas) supervises the library daily during Period 7, and several times a week, students gain work experience by helping care for the library facility. Also, Cathy Coffin is a great club co-adviser!
  • Campus Supervisors - Our campus supervisors are always just a walkie-talkie call away, and they - typically Jake Schwartzwald these days - also keep the library open and available for students after school.
  • Site Substitute Eric Hagen - When Eric is not assigned to cover for other teachers, he is always willing to help out in the library - he has been a welcomed addition!
  • Guidance Team - The Guidance team makes a great neighbor! They help me secure quality student aides, partner with assisting new and exiting students, and are caring when I alert them to students who may need extra support.
  • District-wide Library Staff - Teacher Librarians and Library Technicians from other sites, as well as the district Library and Media Services Office Assistant Laurie Tong, are professional colleagues who work with me to push our collective libraries forward. They also contribute tangibly to our students as we regularly share both print and online resources.
  • District ETS and ITS Teams - These teams are our lifelines to supporting teachers and students with technology. They help make resources available that facilitate learning and with troubleshooting and solution finding so that we are never alone.
  • District Curriculum Team - The Curriculum Department helps coordinate district-level resources that we are able to share with our students, and their support also bolsters our site-level efforts.
  • Community Partners - We are fortunate to have community partners, including the West Hills High School PTSA and Foundation, which donate resources to the library, and the Santee County Library, whose librarians visit monthly delivering book talks that ignite student excitement about reading.
  • Office Team - I am indebted to the admin and classified office staff. Debbie and Janelle (and Courtney) patiently help me navigate everything budget-related; Sheryle saves me hours with her report running wizardry; Lori and Kim care for students I send their way physically and mentally; Brenda, Laura, and Shari always looks out for us; and Robin, Ginny, and the VP team of five are dependably supportive.
  • Our Teachers - While this is only my second year at West Hills, I am grateful that my teaching colleagues have been so warm and welcoming. Thank you to all who kindly share their classes by collaborating with me. The invitation is always open to all - I love having any opportunity to work with you!
  • Our Students - We have amazing students. The library can be a bustling place - I encourage you to stop by at lunch sometime to experience the rush - and yet it works because of our students. I regularly witness students help one another, and I rely upon many students who volunteer their help, adopting the library without ever receiving formal credit. Even those students I may not know as well, they make a difference just by showing up. Their presence matters - they and all of you make the library what it is!
Thank you, Wolf Pack, and Happy Library Week!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

It Takes A Village! Extending Deep Appreciation To All Who Help Me Help Students

Recently, Mrs. Ruggles and Mrs. Romanowski extended an invitation to collaborate on a Bless Me, Ultima project for their 10th grade English classes. I always love working with our teachers and was excited to gather a mix of print and electronic resources that students would need.

To complement the core novel, many topics challenge students to read thematically-related texts, most of which are not freely accessible on the general web. While several books were available in the West Hills library, I certainly did not have enough copies of key books - nor all of the titles - in our collection alone.

Fortunately, since our school is networked as part of a district-wide online library catalog, we have the ability to search the collections of sister schools. After sending out an all call email to my fellow GUHSD Teacher Librarians and Library Technicians, they immediately stepped up to help, just as they always do. They found requested books on their shelves and packaged them up for delivery.

Bless Me, Ultima Project Books
From there, our GUHSD warehouse department ensured safe delivery of the books from the lending sites to West Hills, just as they always do. Knowing how this adds literal weight to their loads, I want to express extra appreciation for the critical role that they play in enabling me to support student learning.

In general, once at West Hills, student office aides are responsible for getting packages sorted into my personal mail cubby. Then, to notify students that books are available for pickup, I rely upon library student aides to deliver notes to classrooms, where teachers kindly accommodate passing them along.

Inter-library loan (ILL) - as this is called in the library world - is a wonderful thing, because it allows for efficient resource sharing, something that is not only practical, but also essential given limited budgets. ILL only works, though, because of the help of many different people who work in concert to help deliver knowledge into the hands of our students.

This is just one example, among countless throughout the year, that illustrates how it indeed takes a village to successfully support our students! Thank you to everyone above - and others who help in big and small ways year round - for contributing to student learning!