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Librarian books her retirement

She plans to stay connected to children

Posted: May 3, 2009 9:43 p.m.
Updated: May 4, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Cheryl Phillips poses with flowers brought to her by students at Peachland Avenue Elementary School. Phillips retired after 17 years as the school's library media tech on Thursday. Students and teachers say she will be missed and remembered most for always recommending good books.

 
Cheryl Phillips is retiring after 17 years as a librarian at Peachland Avenue Elementary School, but that doesn't mean it was easy to let go. It also doesn't mean she'll stop instilling a love for books in children.

But to embark on a new path of retirement and volunteerism, she had to say goodbye on Thursday to a school filled with inspired students who will miss her deeply.

"How many jobs are there where you get to receive hugs every day?" said Phillips, 63, of Newhall. "The hard part is to say goodbye to the kids. It was so hard to let go. I feel so much that it's my library."

Phillips' legacy within the Newhall School District began in 1982 at Peachland Elementary, where she worked as a teacher's aid. From there she transitioned to Old Orchard Elementary School, then spent time with Newhall Land and Farm, and then on to Valencia Valley Elementary School.

"I applied for the librarian position there but didn't get it," she said. "They put me in the office, instead. So I opened up the new school - I remember being there till four in the morning opening up boxes of chairs and desks."

It wasn't until 1992 that a librarian's position opened up at Peachland Elementary. That paved the way for Phillips to fulfill a passion she'd had since high school.

"After the English classes I took in high school, I knew I loved books and literature," she said. "I was an English major in college - that was my love."

Phillips' position as the school library media tech required her to read to children daily, help teachers find books to help supplement their curriculum, teach older students how to effectively research online and more. But Phillips took her job even further than that.

"I think my most important job is motivating the kids to have a love for reading," she said. "You can teach kids to read, but unless you give them exciting, challenging stuff to read, they're never going to develop a love to read."

Sisters Emily and Kelly Shapiro said Phillips always had a good book to recommend.

"I never loved to read, but she definitely encouraged us to read more, and that helped get me through my elementary years," said Emily, an eighth-grader at Placerita Junior High School. "She was very good at picking out a good book for you."

Peachland Elementary first grade teacher Dianne White said Phillips went out of her way to choose and order books for the school's library.

"She was a really strong advocate for bringing books, even when the budget cuts were really, and still are, a problem," White said.

"She wrote grants to receive collections of books."

On her last day, Phillips' domain - the library - was flooded with hundreds of personalized cards, flowers, and heart-felt gifts from all grades of students at Peachland.

"If you go, who will read us books?" asked one colorful card written in a first-grader's crooked handwriting.

Phillips said it was when students would come in on their own time to pick out a new a book that she knew she had helped instill a love for reading in them.

"When they have a choice to play at recess or come in and get a book - and they come in, you think, ‘I got that one,'" she said.
Although Phillips is retiring, children's reading will remain a priority in her life.

"I will always stay connected to children reading somehow because I have such a passion for it," she said.

She plans to volunteer at the school's library and remain part of the children's reading organizations that she is a part of, such as the Children's Literature Council of Southern California.

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