Steve Tetreault, M.Ed., Ed.D., MI, is a man of many talents. After spending 24 years in the classroom as an English Language Arts teachers, he added another degree to his resume and is now certified as a teacher, school library media specialist, supervisor, and administrator. His history with Rutgers dates to 1992 and continued through 2019 when he earned his Master of Information (MI) at the School of Communication and Information. He graciously shared with us his educational path, reflections on learning and the importance of librarians, and advice for current and future students.
“I was a Rutgers student on and off from 1992 through 2019. I did my undergrad on the College Avenue campus, where I double majored in English and Education. I went back for a Master’s in Educational Administration and Supervision at the Graduate School of Education in 2003. When I finished that, I rolled into a doctoral program at the GSE, which I wrapped up in 2014. While working on my doctorate, I almost started the MI program at SC&I, thinking I could use what I learned about research to help me complete my dissertation. Then sanity prevailed and I ended up putting off the MI. In 2016, my middle school’s librarian mentioned he was retiring soon, so I went back to SC&I for my MI. Altogether, I’ve spent roughly 17 years at Rutgers—as my dad likes to say, I have ‘more degrees than a thermometer.’
“After getting my B.A., I took a bit of a circuitous route to full-time teaching. I started in Rhode Island (my home state), then moved to New Jersey. I’ve been at my current middle school since the late 1990s. I was a classroom teacher until January 2022, when I was finally able to make the transition to the school library.
“Whenever I think of higher education, I think of Rutgers. Its long history of being a nationally ranked school was what originally drew me after high school, and the flexibility of its programs kept me coming back. When I realized I’d need a degree and licensure to become my school’s librarian, Rutgers was my first thought."
“What truly convinced me that RU’s MI program was right for me was the first conversation I had with Associate Teaching Professor of Library and Information Science Joyce Valenza, my advisor and eventual instructor. Over several decades of classroom work, I’d seen education slide ever increasingly into being focused on standardized testing, drifting further and further from the rudiments of foundational educational principles. As I told Dr. Valenza in that first conversation, I believe the last place for true engagement with learning is the school library. As we discussed the program, Dr. Valenza made it clear that it was focused on practice and on students. Assignments require gaining hands-on knowledge and experience and creating materials that not only serve as solid portfolio pieces to show potential employers, but also can be put into practice once a position is secured. I greatly appreciated knowing that I would come out of the MI program ready to hit the ground running. The program had me engaging with the school library community in a multitude of ways—I was a ‘hobbyist librarian’ for half a dozen years before securing an official school library media specialist position.
“After several decades in the classroom, I was seeing that practice had shifted. While I try not to take myself too seriously, I take education very seriously. I saw school librarianship as a way to deepen students’ connections to their learning. Helping them learn to navigate the firehose of information they face each time they go online, providing them with resources and materials that allow them to engage in inquiry learning on topics meaningful to them, and supporting teachers and administrators across curricula all struck me as important goals.
“Earning my MI helped me see parts of the educational landscape from a new perspective. In an information economy, information literacy should be ranked with reading, writing, and arithmetic in terms of core subjects. School librarians are specifically trained to offer instruction in this vital area."
“I have been fortunate enough to speak with graduate students in MI programs at Rutgers and other institutions about my experiences and advice. There are a few items I come back to over and over:
- It’s important to admit ignorance. Some people see librarians as the holders of all knowledge. That’s a harmful myth that takes agency away from information seekers. It’s good to say, ‘I don’t know the answer to that; but let’s see if we can figure it out.’
- Get involved! The MI program gently pushed me to become a member of ALA, AASL, NJLA, and NJASL—all organizations that support professionals who are currently particularly embattled. But even better, I was encouraged to not just join, but take part in events, conferences, committees, and online professional learning networks (PLNs). School librarianship can be lonely—it’s rare for a building to have more than one certified school librarian; and some schools share a single librarian. Being an involved member of library organizations provides much-needed connections to other professionals who can offer insight, advice, and a shoulder to cry on.
- Don’t wait—dive in! The librarians I have been fortunate enough to connect with, both online and in person, have been some of the most giving, thoughtful, and friendly professionals I’ve ever worked with. And because it’s a small community, some students or new librarians are reluctant to offer their thoughts. But because the community is small, it’s important for everyone to offer their ideas. As a friend likes to say, librarians are #BetterTogether! Start engaging with the conversations! Submit proposals for presentations and poster sessions you can offer at conferences and conventions! Everyone has something to contribute.”