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Cary Elementary School librarian and three kids

Cary Elementary School librarian gifts each student with a book as she plans to retire

Melody Black, a teacher-librarian at Cary Elementary School, has worked for Hampton City Schools for 21 ½ years. She has decided that this will be her last year and she will retire at the end of this school year. As a way to share something meaningful with each child before she departs, Black decided to gift each child at Cary with a book.

Black said she the idea came to her when she found an amazing book last summer called “The Book of Gold” by Bob Staake. It was the inspiration for her own “Book of Gold” project. She said she spent the entire summer searching for new or like new books until she had over 400 to share. During the first two weeks of school she read “The Book of Gold” to every class at Cary. Starting the third week of school each class had their library cards put into a container and she drew out the first name. The student who’s name was drawn was allowed to select the book of their choice and pick the next name the following week. This continued each week until the last name was selected the last week in March. Each book included a book label that says “This Book of Gold belongs to:” that was filled out with the student’s name, date, a small heart and Black’s name. Students always asked, “Is it really mine to keep?”

Black said the students loved their BOG (Book of Gold) time and they would remind her that it was time to select the next name.

While Black has worked for HCS for over 21 years, she has spent 16 of those years as the teacher-librarian at Cary Elementary School. She started her career as a full-time kindergarten instructional assistant and worked as the office administrator of intersession/enrichment programs along with the assistant principal when Smith Elementary was launched as a year round school. She was invited by Sherry Holt, who was a supervisor for teacher-librarians at the time, to join the first Longwood Cohort for Librarianship, sponsored by HCS.

Black said she is in the process of buying a home in Alabama so she can spend lots of time with her family, pursue her love of writing and find a really cool place to volunteer. While she is excited for this new chapter of her life, she said she would definitely miss building relationships with children.

It seems as the Cary staff and students will also miss Black and her contributions to the Cary family. Principal Dr. Heidi Brezinski had the following to share about her:

“When I started at Cary, I had no idea what an asset Ms. Black would be to the heart of Cary - our kids! Yes, they know her as the "librarian" and yes, she checks books in and out to students.  But she does so much more! She breathes the love of reading into our students.  She makes them feel comfortable and safe enough to grab that book they've been dreaming to check out. She allows them to explore and build creativity within her library walls. But most of all - she teaches, expects and demonstrates kindness and love each and every day.  Choose kind . . . that's been her motto . . . but the best part is she lives it! Recently her kindness was spread to her students through gifting them with a book. But this is just one of countless ways she chooses kind and shows it here at Cary!”

Black also remembers fondly those really special teaching moments during her career. She was able to celebrate the accomplishments and a-ha moments of her students and also be there for them when they needed a little extra help or just a comforting friend to listen to them.

“I am truly grateful to Hampton for the opportunities I have been given to make a difference for children,” said Black. “I was blessed with an amazing principal who hired me, followed by others who trusted me enough in my space to do things out of the ordinary. Those out of the ordinary things gave many extraordinary experiences to our students. Our children are worth every effort!”

We wish Melody Black the best in her retirement and thank her for her service to Hampton City Schools and to our students.

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As stated in School Board Policy AC, Hampton City Schools (“HCS”) does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, gender, age, disability or other protected class in its programs, activities and employment practices and provides equal access to the Boy Scouts and other designated youth groups.  HCS also prohibits retaliation under School Board Policy GBAH for the purpose of interfering with a person’s rights and/or privileges under federal civil rights laws, which can include: (i) raising concerns with Division personnel about a civil rights violation; (ii) asserting a right or advocating for the rights of a student or employee under federal civil rights laws; or (iii) participating in a complaint investigation or related proceedings. 

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