Point Loma High library technician reaps Classified Employee of the Year reward
After 30 years on the job, Lisa Cooper, library technician at Point Loma High School, still goes to work with a smile. And she’s not shy about admitting how much she loves her work.
Her care for students, fellow staff members and the community got Cooper named a 2022 San Diego Unified School District Classified Employee of the Year.
Cooper knew practically from the beginning that she had been nominated for the award, as she had handled districtwide nominations for years. She quickly handed over the job to an administrative assistant when she realized her name was on the ballot.
“I really, really felt appreciated,” she said. “I found out I had won at the end of March. I was visiting relatives in Washington state when I got the email stating that I had won. For me and my daughter, it was the most exciting thing ever!”
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Peers were quoted in her nomination as saying: “Lisa’s best character trait is her compassion for others”; “She is a role model for the other classified staff”; “She goes above and beyond what is expected of her every day.”
“I’ve been very lucky,” Cooper said. “For the past 30 years, I’ve been in this same site. There have been five principals. For the past dozen or so years, I’ve been working alone except for the aid of a student or two. But the Point Loma staff has always felt like a family. I have gotten recognition for a lot of the things that I have done and I feel appreciated.”
Greeting the students every day is her favorite part of her job, she said. “The whole two years of COVID, when we were without students every day, was very disheartening. When you live your life working with kids and being there for other people, it just wasn’t fun.”
Seeing the students face to face after their long-awaited return to the classrooms was “the best way to start my year,” she said.
“I’m the happy-go-lucky lady that tries to be as positive as I can be. I make sure to ask the kids if they’re OK, if there is something I can help them with. Being the extra ear somebody needs to listen to them is very important to me. I’m just a softy when it comes to my students.”
As Cooper spoke, with the school year winding down, she was deep in the middle of plans for the following day’s textbook returns. At the beginning, middle and end of each school year, the students have book checkouts, returns, exchanges or reissues.
The work involves thousands of books and a brigade of volunteers.
“Not only do we deal with about 8,625 textbooks, we also issue the novels each class must read, so about 10,000 books at the beginning of the year, plus computers,” Cooper said. “By the end of the year, we get about 9,000 books back. It’s a big, big ordeal.”
As much work as she does herself, she quickly gives credit to the volunteer helpers. One of them, Pat Baker, still helps with textbook days, although her child graduated 20 years ago.
Physically moving 10,000 books may not be what most librarians envisioned for their careers. But like so many other jobs, things have changed over the years.
Cooper said school library technicians formerly assisted librarians. However, the school district no longer hires teacher librarians, so the technicians have taken over “without the pay increase, since we don’t have teaching credentials,” Cooper said.
The job varies for different grade levels, she added. “At K-8 schools, we do a lot of reading and trying to get the kids excited for reading. At the high school level, we become more academic and help get the various teaching spaces ready for the students, whether that’s college presentations over Zoom or using the Smartboards [interactive electronic display boards].”
“I’m the happy-go-lucky lady that tries to be as positive as I can be. I make sure to ask the kids if they’re OK, if there is something I can help them with. ... I’m just a softy when it comes to my students.”
— Lisa Cooper
The former library was in an old round building on campus. “All the rooms were pie-shaped, which meant they weren’t roomy at all,” Cooper said.
The old building was demolished, and its new replacement has the library on the first floor and 10 classrooms on both the second and third floors. Some rooms have views of the ocean, while others face San Diego’s harbor and downtown.
Point Loma High School is celebrating its newly completed site modernization that includes a new 38,000-square-foot classroom building with a library/media center.
The new space includes a “Comfy Zone” with butterfly chairs.
“The goal of the architecture and the Comfy Zone is to make the kids feel at home,” Cooper said. “They can kick back with their computers on their laps and feel welcome.”
There also are 15 individual study zones.
“Some of the students want a quiet space, and we have that available. Overall, our library is not a quiet place; we want our students to use the space and be comfortable in it,” she said.
There is at least one thing Cooper dislikes about her job.
“My least-favorite thing is seeing the seniors walk down the aisle at graduation and saying goodbye. That’s hard,” she said.
She is comforted, however, by the fact that many former students take their own kids to the school and she has gotten to know multiple generations of families.