From chef to teaching in Japan to working in a public library in Maryland and now to overseeing a school library, Nichole Alward has worn many hats in her adult life.
The latest to be added to that list is Michigan School Librarian of the Year.
The Michigan Association of School Librarians recognized Ms. Alward as the Michigan School Librarian of the Year during their President’s Award Gala in early November 2023. Ms. Alward is the media specialist at Edsel Ford High School.
The daughter of an Air Force veteran, she grew up moving around a lot, which continued in her adult life as the wife of a now retired U.S. Navy sailor.
She earned her teaching certificate while living on a military base in Japan, but when her husband was transferred to Maryland, she could not find work at the local school district during the Great Recession. Instead, she started working at the public library. After three years there, she put both her library and teaching certificate to work by moving to a job as a school librarian.
Six years ago, she started in Dearborn Public Schools.
During her time at Edsel, she has helped drive a greater interest in the school library.
“We revamped the library,” Alward said. “Our circulation has gone way, way up.”
All of the English classes now visit the media center, and students often return on their own for another book in the series or by the same author. She started an Instagram account to highlight different books and programs at the school library. Alward also runs a game club after school and organizes school contests to give away books. Dozens of students now gather in the library over their lunch periods for a quieter place to catch a breath between classes.
Circulation at the library increased from 2,504 items checked out during the 2017-18 school year to 12,572 items for the 2022-23 year.
The Michigan Association of School Librarians says the group’s general purpose “shall be to increase student achievement by supporting high-quality school libraries in Michigan.”
Rima Hassan, Edsel Ford High’s principal, and Gretchen Bajorek, district reading and literacy coach, nominated Alward for the Librarian of the Year Award.
Bajorek in her nomination letter described Alward as having “grace under pressure” and “unwavering professional integrity.”
Bajorek noted the controversy with books in the district in the fall of 2022 and how some community members were focusing their anger at district staff, including school librarians.
“Nichole continued to provide a welcoming place for Edsel Ford HS students to discover their next book or favorite author,” Bajorek wrote. “Dearborn Public Schools is very lucky Nichole Alward is holding steady to inclusive values within a diverse community.”