“The district has a big ceremony and the board of education members and principal recognize you,” she said. “It might not be a big deal in a small district, but in a big district it is a huge deal.”
Priest said there are six districts within Wichita Public Schools and more than 50,000 students—making it the largest district in Kansas.
“The person who nominated me was the music teacher at Beech,” she said. Priest was appreciated for doing a “great job” of making the transition from high school to elementary librarian.
“Her lessons are fun, informative and based on district standards,” the nomination stated. “She began a reading program to encourage students to do more non-fiction reading which helped improve our scores on the state assessments.”
In her second year as elementary librarian, Priest said this is her 19th year in the district.
Born and raised in Hillsboro, Priest and her family continue to live in town and commute.
She and husband Jason have three children: Jaden, 12, Macy, 8, and Gavin, 6.
“I went through our (Hillsboro) school system and Tabor College,” she said.
After earning her degree in elementary education/special education from Tabor College, Priest said she wanted a teaching position in the area, but it was Wichita that gave her the job.
“When I graduated from Tabor (College),” she said, “there were no jobs in this area. I came in when people weren’t retiring.”
She said she competed for a position along with 300 to 400 other applicants.
“No one was leaving the profession, but I happened to have elementary education and special education and special ed always has jobs,” she said.
In her 19 years, Priest said she has been at five schools in the Wichita district, 10 years as a special education teacher, seven years as a high school librarian and two years as an elementary school librarian.
“I couldn’t be a classroom teacher long-term,” she said, “but I loved the school district, but didn’t want to be a principal either.”
At a crossroads, Priest went back to school for her school media library certificate at Wichita State University.
“I just love being a librarian,” she said. “The technology, the books, I love everything about it.”
She said she also likes supporting the classroom.
Art, physical education, music and library make up the support team, she said.
“I have 520 kids in my school and I am the only librarian,” she said. “I have 26 classes a week and I see everybody in the school pre-kindergarten through fifth grade.”
One of the biggest changes Priest said she has seen as a librarian is how technology is a much bigger part of the library.
Even though Priest teaches in Wichita, she said she is glad her children are able to be in the same small district she attended.