Author Archives: Melissa McCallar

About Melissa McCallar

I am a high school media specialist.

Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl Success!

With so many changes in our county this year, Mrs. Lukkarinen and I have had to rethink many of the things that we do in the media center on a daily basis. Unfortunately, one of the things that we have been able to do less of is blog. Despite our challenges with our 1:1 iPad implementation this year, we finally feel like we are getting back into the groove and carving out a new normal juggling our traditional responsibilities, programs, and activities with our new role as iPad gurus.

One activity that we have kept at the forefront of our program this year is our Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl team. As reigning state champions, we have worked even harder on our books, questions, and buzzers to prepare for our competitions this year.

Liberty County HRRB Champs!

Liberty County HRRB Champs!

Due to a death in my family, I had to miss our season-opening competition against Liberty County High School on January 23rd. I had no reason to worry, however, because our team defeated our cross-town rivals 480-100 in six rounds of competition. The first place team in our county bowl earns the right to advance to the regional competition each year.

Southern Regional HRRB Champs!

Southern Regional HRRB Champs!

Last Saturday, February 7th, our team competed in the Southern Regional Bowl held in Valdosta. Once again, our team did not disappoint! For the third year in a row, our team defeated the other six schools in the competition to earn a spot in the Division II Bowl in Statesboro later this month. Our team once again showed that hard work pays off, outscoring the second place team 470-270.

We have our sights set on that state trophy once again. Our mantra this season is “compete for the repeat!”

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Girl Power! A Brief Review of Three New Reads

As much as I hate to admit it, I am not the type of person who is always reading a new book. Don’t get me wrong, I love to read and go through what I call “reading binges,” but the fact is, I am not always lost in the pages of a novel. I am trying to do better this year, and I have even created a display in the media center illustrating what Mrs. Lukkarinen and I are currently reading to provide suggestions and encourage students to talk to us about great books. So far, so good! As this has made me grab a new book as soon as I finish one, I am not getting anything done around the house! Those that know me know that once a book has got me, it’s got me, and all else is forgotten – including food and sleep.

Last week I read three books that have me really excited. When I sat down to decide which to review on the blog this month, I realized that while the three had different plots, settings, and genres, all three had a memorable and strong, female main character. Instead of reviewing each book, I thought I might instead talk about these leading ladies.

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In Dorothy Must Die, by Danielle Paige, Amy Gunn is transported to Oz when a tornado hits her trailer, but this isn’t the Oz we all expect. This is a much darker version, ruled by a corrupt Dorothy and her familiar companions. Amy learns that she must kill Dorothy, whose rule is terrorizing and destroying all of Oz. Female characters dominate in this familiar, yet new story and make you both fear and admire their strength until the dramatic end. This is the first in a series (which I didn’t discover until the last page).

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Mary Shelley Black is the main character of In the Shadow of Blackbirds by Cat Winters. Set during World War I and the Spanish Influenza outbreak of 1918, this historical, supernatural thriller really surprised me. Not only did I have a hard time putting it down, but I was also blindsided by the twist at the end of the book. What I will remember most about this story, though, was the way Mary Shelley defied cultural norms and societal expectations placed upon her because she was a female. Her mother was a physician who died during childbirth, but Mary Shelley grew up to have just as much conviction, courage, and intelligence as she did. I want to say so much more about this character, but I don’t want to give away too much of the story!

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The book that I just finished about an hour ago was Dear Killer, by Katherine Ewell. Wow! I couldn’t get through this one fast enough. Almost immediately, I had a love/hate relationship with Kit, the female lead in this contemporary thriller. She is a high school student who is the most prolific serial killer in London since Jack the Ripper. Dubbed the Perfect Killer by police, she is methodical and calculated in her craft, eventually befriending the lead investigator charged with catching her. She was trained from a very young age to murder by her mother, who was also once a serial killer. The story is told from Kit’s perspective and really made me cringe in some parts. In addition to the action and progression of the plot, we get to witness the struggle in Kit as she walks the line between right and wrong.

I know this was a long post, but make sure you check out one or all three of these books today in BI’s media center!

Categories: Book Recommendations | Leave a comment

Teen Read Week Fun


TRW Logo

This has been a very different year for us with the 1:1 initiative beginning in our county. While we continue to work out the kinks and spend a great deal of time working with iPads and related issues, we must still celebrate and promote traditional programs in our media center. One of our favorite special events each year is Teen Read Week, and this year was no exception!

We began the week collecting books for our first ever Book Swap. Students brought in gently used books all week and picked up a ticket to redeem the same number of titles on Swap Day. We had hundreds of books brought in for this event! Students and staff members who participated were pleased with the selection and left with new books to read, all without having to purchase anything. We are looking forward to doing this again in May to prepare for our summer reading program. We can’t wait!

We also hosted a daily photo scavenger hunt for students. Each clue was reading-focused (Day 1-The Fault in Our Stars, Day 2-Shakespeare, Day 3-The Hunger Games Series) and required students to take a photo (yay for iPads!) of something that represented the topic in some way. They could not simply take a photo of a book cover. We encouraged them to think outside of the box and come up with some clever and creative representations. To tie in writing, we asked each student to submit a short description of how the photo represented the given topic. We were blown away with both the participation and the submitted photos! We randomly selected a daily participant to win a small prize and at the end of the week, we also randomly selected a grand prize winner who participated all week. Check out my Twitter post for a few examples of the responses we received:

Additionally, we asked each club and sports group to create new read posters for the media center. We decided to hold a student vote and select the best eight to display, with the top vote getter earning a grand prize for the group. With a short school week, most asked to have the deadline extended, so we decided to make this an activity that we will wrap up later in the year. We had so much fun with all of these activities!

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Library Apps

Now that all of our students have an iPad, it is time to start exploring and downloading apps! Each teacher will have specific requirements for his or her classes, but we also want to share a few apps that we think you need to have.

Destiny Quest

This app will allow you to manage your library account from your iPad. You can look for available books, view your current checkouts and fines, write reviews and recommendations on titles, and place holds on books. You can also find titles in our growing collection of e-books.

Follett BryteWave K12

Once you find an e-book, this app will allow you to read the title on your iPad. Although you can read e-books directly from Destiny Quest, you may want to download the books for access without a Wi-Fi connection. An added benefit of reading e-books is that you don’t have to remember to return them – the titles are automatically returned at the end of your check-out period.

Check out this flyer for directions and important account information for both Destiny Quest and BryteWave.

ebook image


Free Books

Many of our teachers also bring students into the media center to borrow class sets of English novels. These classics are often in the public domain, meaning they are available to read for free with apps like Free Books. With a collection of over 23,ooo titles, this is a great way to have access to many of the titles you will be reading in English courses while at BI. Of course, you can still visit us in the media center to borrow many of the same titles.

Easy Bib

This citation app has been a favorite of ours for a few years. When working on a research paper or project, use this app to keep a running list of your resources to be cited. For a book, use your iPad’s camera to capture the ISBN (from the book’s barcode) and instantly create the citation in the selected format (most teachers at BI require MLA citations). Using a Web site instead of a book for research? That works, too! Type in the URL (web address) and the correct citation will be provided for you. You can e-mail the list to yourself and copy and paste your work into your final paper. What a fantastic time saver!

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Tiger TV Recruiting New Members


Do you enjoy taking photographs? Do you have an interest in a career in television or radio? Would you like to participate in an extracurricular organization that will get you involved with the many activities happening at BI? If so, Tiger TV is the club for you! 

Tiger TV crew members are responsible for operating cameras at football games, filming graduation, and reporting on most special events that occur during the year. While it requires a great deal of your time after school hours, we always manage to have fun and share plenty of laughs while we work.

Our Tiger TV student leader this year is Keinan Johnson. If you are interested in learning more or being a part of our team, stop by the media center and pick up an application or talk to Keinan when you see him around school. You will be glad you did!

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A New Year is Here!


I have attempted to post a welcome back message about ten times since we have returned to work, but I haven’t been able to sit and get it done until now. So welcome back students, staff, parents, and community friends! School has been in session almost two weeks now, and it has been extremely busy for us in the media center so far. Ordinarily, we would be holding our annual freshmen orientations right now, but with our 1:1 iPad initiative rolling out this school year, we have done little other than unpacking, processing, distributing, setting-up, and troubleshooting iPads since school started. While this has been a stressful and incredibly busy time for us, we are very excited about the opportunities that our students will have as a part of this initiative (called the Liberty Learning Experience). We look forward to getting in classrooms and working directly with teachers and students in their subject areas once we get all students up and running on their devices, and we play catch-up on some of our other media responsibilities.

We have a great deal to look forward to this year and over the next few months! With 18 new staff members, we can’t wait to build new relationships and create new learning opportunities for students through collaborative partnerships. We are anxious to kick off our Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl team practices later this month. We are also seeking new members of the audio/visual club we sponsor, Tiger TV. Additionally, we are looking forward to selecting and purchasing new books for our collection, especially e-books now that all students can access these materials with their iPads. We will be planning some special events for staff and students as well in the coming months. We will keep you posted on all of the things happening at BI! Stop in and see us if you get a chance!


Categories: Media Programs | Leave a comment

Summer Reading


One of my favorites things about summer is that I have plenty of time to read! We know that this is true for many of our students at BI, too. We spent the last month of school planning and advertising our first BI Virtual Summer Reading Program. We wanted to do some fun, reading-related activities while we all had a little time off. Since it is hard to get students to meet in-person during the busy summer months, we decided to try a virtual summer reading program using social media.

Summer Reading Social Media Challenges

Here is how it works. Each week, Mrs. Lukkarinen and I will use Remind 101 to send out a weekly reading challenge. These challenges will be fun, easy, and definitely reading-related. We will choose a random weekly participant to win a small prize when we return to school in August. Since there are 8 weeks in our summer challenge, there will be 8 weekly prizes to claim! You may win free books, reading promotional items, or other cool stuff from our prize box. To enter each weekly challenge, use the hashtag #BIreads to post the challenge photo on Twitter or Instagram, or you can e-mail us at if you are not on these social media sites. You have to sign up to receive the Remind 101 texts or e-mails to know what each challenge will be! Here are the directions to do that:


You can also win our grand prize at the end of the summer by keeping track of what you read all summer long. Simply complete the reading log below and return to the media center during the first two weeks of August. We will draw one name to win something fantastic – think tablet, book store gift cards, etc.

BI Summer Reading Log

Now, what kind of media specialists would we be if we left you high and dry with no reading materials? We have decided to announce (via Remind 101) special check-out days at BI’s media center over the summer. That’s right – if one of us is working at BI (which we do often during the summer), we will send out a Remind 101 message to let you know the times you can drop by and check out a book! For those traveling, you can always check out an e-book from our collection to read on your smart phone, tablet, or computer. See the directions below for doing this.

E-Books How-To Flyer

Now go find a good book and start reading! The first challenge will be sent out on June 9th!

Categories: Media Programs, Special Events, Summer Reading | Leave a comment

My Friend Dahmer: A Graphic Review


I love books, and I love to read. I enjoy different types of stories, so I can get excited about almost any genre. Almost. When this year’s Georgia Peach Award nominees were announced in February, we were surprised to find that two of the 20 selections were graphic novels. Instantly, I dreaded reading these two titles because “I just don’t read graphic books.” I took home the first of these two books, My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf, one Monday afternoon and thought I might flip through to see what I was missing. Less than two hours later, I had finished my first graphic novel.

Although I am still not a big fan of graphic books in general, I have a new found appreciation for why many students gravitate toward them. The images in Dahmer told the story in ways that I am not sure words could have. I think that readers could have learned a great deal about this man in any number of other books or articles published about him, but there was something about seeing Backderf’s images that made me feel like I knew this troubled teen. Although I had no intention of reading the book when I first sat down with it, I found that once I began exploring, I had to go back to the beginning and continue until I finished it. I can’t say that I felt sorry for Dahmer after reading the book. Mostly, I felt anger about all of the years that his problems were overlooked. As his depravity escalates in his teen years, I wanted to scream at the people in his life to do something!  I was surprised that a book with less words than a typical chapter could make me so emotional. I even found myself spending a great deal of time on the pages with no text or dialogue. There was so much to see and reflect on in each of the scenes of the story. While I would still rather curl up on a rainy day with a traditional fiction novel, I feel like I can be more open-minded when it comes to books outside of my comfort zone like My Friend Dahmer.

Categories: Book Recommendations | Leave a comment

Is It Really May?

Every year goes by quickly, but I can’t believe that it is already May. Usually at the end of the semester, we get so busy with teaching that we get behind in blogging. This semester is no exception! We have classes scheduled in the media center and computer labs into the last week of school. This is a great problem to have, but it does leave us a little out of breath when the whirlwind settles!

Since we last posted, many exciting things have been happening in the media center. We hosted our state-wide Exemplary Library Media Program Open House. We had almost 40 attendees throughout the day who represented at least 9 counties in Georgia. We were very pleased to have a media specialist from as far away as the metro-Atlanta area attend. Additionally, we were thrilled that Dr. Vayla Lee, Superintendent of Liberty County Schools, joined our principal, Scott Carrier, in supporting this event. We had several other central office officials, school principals, and even a school board member attend as well. Oh, and I can’t forget the two Instructional Technology professors from Georgia Southern University, Dr. Repman and Dr. Green, who taught us so much about this profession! The support our media program receives from all levels of administration and the community makes a big difference in what we are able to accomplish. image

When we have not been teaching, we have been preparing for some big changes coming in technology next year. We recently learned that we will be going 1:1 in grades 4 – 12 next year. For those of you not familiar with this term, it means all students in these grades will be assigned an iPad to use for instruction. With significant improvements in bandwidth and teacher training, we expect to see some great things happening in our classrooms. While Mrs. Lukkarinen and I have had our hands full with the logistics of these changes, we are really looking forward to leading our teachers and staff through this period of transition next year and beyond.

Finally, we learned last week that our program has once again been designated a Liberty County Exemplary Media Program. While we are ineligible to earn the state distinction again for the next 10 years, we are proud that our program continues to improve and increase student achievement at Bradwell. While we look forward to finishing another school year, we are also anticipating the wonderful things awaiting us and the rest of the Tiger community next year!

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Georgia Student Media Festival


On Friday, we traveled to Jonesboro to help judge almost 1000 student projects that qualified for the Georgia Media Festival this year. To get to the state level competition, projects must score 96 or better at both a school-level and district-level competition.

Congratulations to the following BI students who earned qualifying scores this weekend at state. Their projects will now advance to the International Student Media Festival to be held later in the summer.

Michelle Shaughnessy (Prezi on Andrew Jackson)

Georgi-Ann Johnson (Prezi on Theodore Roosevelt)

Amber Akridge (Website on Eating Disorders)

Victoria Smith (Website on Cancer)
Shanta Bacon
Tameerah Thomas

The following projects earned a perfect score at state:

Keinan Johnson (Website on Social Media and Teens)

Genesis Maldanado-Matos (Website on Teen Depression)
Tiana Johnson
Kaysa Hawkins

We could not do this without media specialist/teacher collaboration on classroom projects throughout the year. A special thank you to Mrs. Reese, Mrs. Eastlake, Coach Miller, and Mr. Richards for encouraging them to participate this year.

Categories: Media Festival, Photos | 1 Comment

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