Sora Spotlight: Kara Montgomery-Roa, Teacher Specialist at Garey High School (CA)
In our recurring Sora Spotlight series, we feature a different librarian, media specialist or educator who’s become a Sora champion at their school, impressing us with their innovative methods for implementing the reading app and engaging with their students. We’ve asked them to share their thoughts and ideas here so that we can all be inspired and identify new ways to reach students and help them fall in love with reading.
Today, we’ll hear from Kara Montgomery-Roa, a Teacher Librarian for Garey High School in Pomona, CA.
Describe your position and your school.
I work to help my Vikings “Live the Legacy” at Garey High School in Pomona, California! As a Teacher Specialist in the Educational Services Department, I’m one of four Teacher Librarians stationed across the four Comprehensive High Schools, with another TS Librarian helping manage the other 40 schools in our district. We also support our cluster elementary and middle schools with Sora/Overdrive and other library needs and support.
With over 90% of our students classified as low income, our shared goal is to make sure our students have everything they need to have equitable access to academic and literary support. A huge part of that is making sure that they feel validated and seen. My passion projects at this district and my school have been to provide diverse representation through books, an engaging and entertaining environment, and activities that get our students excited to learn and resolute that they are deserving and worthy. Always. This has led to me doing everything from curating and promoting diverse books in physical and digital format, redesigning our library and finding library sponsors for remodels at multiple schools, supporting our school through producing a daily news show Viking Connect, creating and building a library garden complete with wishing well and Harry Potter herbology section, and even bringing a Comic-Con for our students to promote literacy across reading levels, especially our English Learner population.
Prior to this, I worked for 5 years at an all-boys high school teaching Business Leadership, AP Computer Science, Computer Apps, and Graphic Design. My job started in Entertainment Marketing and Promotions – which is pretty much what I do now, but with kids. Promoting learning and literacy by any means necessary. As a mom to 2 very active, book loving boys it’s been great being able to help support and curate book across all K-12. I truly love what I do, from handing out laptops and textbooks to helping support spirit days and school wide reading challenges. The next move is to help bring eSports to our school as well. New age school librarians almost have to be professional nerds, always willing to make learning fun and relevant. Gotta make my own Hogwarts…but just more books!
How many years have you been active with OverDrive?
What are you currently reading?
Last Night at the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo (One of My Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month Picks)
Kara’s Sora Story
What do you love most about Sora?
I’m a HUGE fan of ebooks and audiobooks. I’m always glued to my phone for work or filming or entertainment. Reading an ebook has been a stress relief for me – especially as a multitasker. Hopefully it will help others as well. Open the ebook and audiobook world to new minds. One of us! One of us!
What unique things have you done to help increase student engagement with Sora?
To launch Sora, I hosted a summer reading competition with prizes for our incoming freshmen and students. Returning after COVID-19 shutdowns was hard for a lot of students, so it was a way to help promote. We started the year with a Cafecito Con Libros, book challenge with great books to celebrate Latinx Heritage Month. We also hosted a Black History Month competition alongside a video competition to support it. Each month I custom collate the books collection on Sora to our diversity month theme! From video book reviews to corny commercials, I’ve done it all for the sake or reading!
In what ways has this been successful?
It’s been great to allow students to guide changes. I read what I recommend so that’s helped too. This year has been tricky because everyone has been overwhelmed and playing catch up. Because of this, I’ve been sure to include a mental health collection throughout the year for support.
In what ways have you utilized social media to reach your students? What is the impact of this?
Instagram has been huge. Kids don’t check Google Classroom or read emails willingly — so it’s been a great way to get authentic communication going with kids.
Is there anything you did to kick off this school year to introduce Sora to your students?
I want to continue summer reading. Our school doesn’t really have a program, and as a 12-month teacher it’s great to engage the kids year-round and keep that love of literacy going.
As you look to the rest of this school year, do you have any exciting ideas you want to try?
Myself and my fellow librarians are trying to get eSports going at the high schools. So, books to support and tutorials will be great! The goal is to host some library tournaments!
(Editor’s note: eSports is a video game competition between school teams. There are try outs, captains, tournaments, and such. Learn more about eSports.)
Get to know Kara
What is the most important thing you hope your students take away from reading/education?
Books are written by adults who are reading what they wish they had as kids. Books can forever change your course in life, and safe spaces can be both physical and the reading worlds you provide. They arm kids with support and empathy. Everyone is a reader; you just have to find the right one.
What advice do you have for new educators/librarians with a digital collection?
Go big! Why not? Make it obnoxious. The bigger you go, the better it can be. But make sure to ask your kids what they want. Requests help drive your library. Know your kids. Our kids happen to love horror, comics, romance and ALL manga. If you buy it, read it and make sure kids are passionate enough and have a hand in the big picture. If you’re at a middle and high school, book and comic/manga clubs are a must. And who better to lead than librarians!
If you’d like to be featured in our next Sora Spotlight, reach out to us with a brief explanation of what you’re doing in your school and how you’re making an impact with Sora!
Want to learn more about Sora? Check out a live product walk-through to see it in action!
About the Author:
Kristen Hein is a Product Support Specialist working with schools to integrate digital into their libraries and classrooms. She herself has experience as a history teacher working with students grades 8-12 focusing on U.S. history and government. She generally spends most of her free time chasing around her hyper-active pup Romeo, hiking, practicing yoga and trying out the best Cleveland restaurants.
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