I recently lost a special person in my life, Gloria Milner-Thomas. Gloria was a librarian mentor, counselor, advisor, defender, fan but most importantly such a good friend.
I met her years ago when I was assigned as a librarian at a little school in west Englewood called Copernicus (now Langford Academy). I was nervous about my new career in school libraries. I had left corporate America and wanted to be successful. Though my parents were both teachers and provided me with advisement and support, they couldn't hold my hand during the day at work. It was Gloria who held my hand during the day.
When I was introduced to Gloria by the principal, her eyes got really big and she looked me up and down....from the top of my head to the tips of my toes. She quietly went to her desk drawer and began pulling out several books. I can still hear her voice as she said, 'You gonna need this, and this one, oh yes you are going to need this book too!' She finally stood up and said, 'Stand your ground with the children, be fair and patient...they aren't used to receiving library service. We haven't had a librarian in years.' I told her thank you for the books, stood up and began walking out of her Assistant principals office. '....and one more thing Ms Boyd,' she paused and looked over her glasses and firmly said, '......do right by those children.'
This first time encounter with Gloria describes her to a T. She was very generous, she gave away advice for free and was a staunch advocate for children living in poverty. She walked with a purpose of serving others and taking care and loving her family.
Outside of my family she has always been my greatest cheerleader. She encouraged me to hold my head high and continue to walk with conviction when my position at the Department of Libraries was closed and I had to return to the school level. When I told her that I had found a position teaching at Phillips High School, the biggest grin spread across her face. 'You know that's MY high school....you are going to do well there!' And I did!.
As years passed and she became ill and it was sometimes tiring for her to talk on the phone, I still marveled at her mental strength, clarity and advocacy in serving children in lower income communities. She would say, 'It's those little things that you do for children that will remain with them for a lifetime.'
|One of the last books she read with her students|
I'm going to miss my friend. I'm going to miss those weekend conversations where we would talk and sometimes debate on education policy. (I could never present a strong enough argument to win a debate with her!)
Gloria was a one-of-a-kind beautiful human being. I just wish that more people within the education community could have had the opportunity to talk to her or just work with her. She experienced much, tolerated too much and endured things that most couldn't during their career. It often saddened me that some who were WEAK viewed her as a threat when she was an asset to every organization/system she lended her time to. That was Gloria.
I thank her son and daughter for SHARING their mother with us. I understand she was a workaholic and her mind was always on the next grant or program idea. I speak on behalf of the hundreds of teachers Gloria helped, inspired or fussed at.....she helped mold us all into the Educators that keep SERVICE of CHILDREN at the center of our practice.