Nathaniel Powell grew up in Portsmouth, Virginia. His love of learning led to multiple degrees, including: North Carolina A and T State University, bachelor’s in economics, 1968; North Central Michigan College, associate’s degree in science (1972); Northern Arizona University, master’s in guidance and counseling (1978); University of Minnesota, bachelor’s in elementary education (1989); University of Michigan, Ed.D. in school administration (2003); and University of Michigan, master’s in library science (2006).
Powell served in the United States Air Force for 20 years as an electronic systems officer, intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launch officer, and United States Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) staff officer, and retired in 1988.
He started working for AAPS as a long-term sub at Bryant Elementary School in 2003, and was eventually hired as a full time employee for the same position in 2006. In 2007, he accepted a position at Community High School as the media specialist. He transferred to Pioneer High School in 2013, where he is now one of the two media specialists/librarians.
Powell lives in Ann Arbor with his wife, Jean, daughter, Kathryn, son, Gregory, and grandchildren, Lilly and Liam Clachar. They like tropical fish and plan to get a dog sometime soon. The Powells volunteer through their church and community service organizations.
Can you describe a typical day at work? A typical day for me begins when I arrive at Pioneer at 7:15 to open the media center to give students access to the computers to print homework and class assignments. Many students need assistance formatting and printing their papers. We provide audiovisual equipment to the staff and most days there is a staff member who needs to check out this equipment. We help students find print material and digital information for their research projects. We co-teach ELL (English Language Learners) students, and encourage all of our students to read for pleasure. We review current booklists to determine what young adults are reading and to determine what to buy to add to our inventory. My official day ends at 2:15, but I seldom leave then. It always seems that there is something else that needs to be done, i.e., helping a student create a PowerPoint presentation, create a bibliography, search a data base, find a particular book, etc. Teachers come to us when they run into difficulty with computer technology and if we can’t assist, we refer them to a computer technician.
What made you decide to become a media specialist? I have always wanted to be a teacher and I love serving as a media specialist/librarian. It excites me to see students learning to read, become avid readers, and life long learners.
How has the role changed in the past decade? In addition to helping students find good reading material, our job has transitioned into helping students retrieve information on the Internet and teaching students and staff how to use the various computer applications available to them.
What don’t people know about the job of high school media specialist? Research has consistently confirmed that students in schools that have full time certified media specialist/librarians exhibit higher academic achievement and perform higher than those student that do not have full time librarians assigned to their schools.
What keeps you motivated? What keeps me motivated is watching students learn and develop into outstanding young people that make significant contributions to their communities while working toward attaining their personal goals.
What is the most rewarding part about the job? The most rewarding part of my job is being able to help students attain their educational objectives and watching them mature over the years into fine young adults.
What are your biggest challenges? My biggest challenge is trying to do more with less. Students have increasing placed more demands on our resources: books, computers, databases, the Internet, etc., while our resources shrink because of budget constraints.
What would you change about the profession if you could? School media specialists/librarians should be given more opportunities to teach.
What do you think is unique about working for AAPS? Ann Arbor Public Schools provides its students with the best public education possible and provides many opportunities that they can take advantage of to become well rounded citizens and life long learners.
What are the perks of working at Pioneer? Working at Pioneer gives me the opportunity to work with some of the smartest, most dedicated, professional, and innovative colleagues I have ever had the opportunity to work with.
_Jo Mathis, AAPS District News Editor