The ladies behind the library

Ellie Pearsall, A&E Editor

Shannon Kawalec- Mrs. K

    After volunteering as a parent during the first year back from COVID, Shannon Kawalec decided to take a permanent job as a librarian at RJ Reynolds High School. Kawalec is not new to working in education as she previously taught yearbook, photography, and theater classes.

    “I was volunteering as a parent during the first year back, and I just enjoyed being here,” Kawalec said. “I used to teach, but this gives you a different dynamic with students because I don’t need anything from them, so I can just sit here and talk about books and have fun.”

    Kawalec’s day-to-day work varies from helping students with password changes and fixing computers (the “bane of her existence”) to organizing fun library events like Poetry Month. However, Kawalec’s favorite part of all is working with students.

Photo provided by Ellie Pearsall

    “I love the students,” Kawalec said. “Most of the people that come in the library are kind and considerate, they’re engaged, and they want to read something. It’s fun to talk about books and make a connection with somebody.”

     Kawalec cares for her students and enjoys the special relationships she has been able to form and bond with people who also love books.

    “I have a student who asked for a recommendation of a book, I suggested one, and he came back the next day and said, ‘I stayed up until five A.M. reading this book. It was so good.’ And I said, ‘Well, I hate to tell you this- but there’s two more.’ And so he took those two and read them in four days,” Kawalec said.

    RJR is lucky to have a librarian who goes out of her way to be personable and who genuinely enjoys what she does.

    “I’ve had a lot of careers, and this has by far been the most fun,” Kawalec said.

Joanna Higgins

    Joanna Higgins has worked in education for 31 years and as a librarian for 14, and she has found her niche as a media worker. 

   “I loved being an English teacher, I loved my students and working with them,” Higgins said. “But as I got older, I began to feel like the things I was good at were becoming less and less of my job and the things that I wasn’t so good at were becoming more and more of my job. I sort of came to a crossroads in my life and said, ‘If I were to start all over again what would I do?’”

    Higgins was drawn to working in the media center due to her love of literature and skills with technology; she has always considered herself to be a big “techie”.

    “I thought library science would be the perfect marriage of all the things I love,” Higgins said. “And I love helping people and working with people. So I took a leap of faith, and I went back to grad school and got a second masters.”

    One of the things Higgins most loves about her job is the variety in her day to day work.

Photo provided by Ellie Pearsall

    “In the morning when I’m getting ready, I go through in my mind, today I need to accomplish this, this, this, and this,” Higgins said. “But as soon as my foot hits this campus, I have 2,000 two legged variables that day.”

    Being raised in India at a very artistic and diverse boarding school that had students from all different countries, Higgins also enjoys a similar diverse environment here at RJ Reynolds High School. 

    “I always loved creative, artistic people and being around creative, artistic people,” Higgins said. “I’m very much a type A person who enjoys things being all in a row. However, I appreciate talent and the creative mind and the idea of being at an arts magnet school was really fascinating to me.”

    Higgins is a bright and joyful presence in the library that contributes so much to RJR behind the scenes, and the staff and students at RJR are lucky to have her here.