‘Granny Librarian’ Mrs. Kiepe enjoys teaching


Rachel Kiepe is enjoying her new job as librarian at Philadelphia Elementary School.

And the students are getting to know her.

“My granddaughter goes to school here,” Kiepe said. “They are calling me Granny Librarian.”

As she settles in, she sees students in grades pre-K through sixth once, sometimes twice a week. Stop by her class anytime during the day and you’ll find her reading to students while teaching reading.

“Our big push this year is trying to restart the accelerator reading program,” Kiepe said. “They have been without a librarian here for little while and did the best they could. But we are kind of starting over.

“Mrs. (Lisa) Hull wanted for me to read to the kids. I do a lot of reading. I am also pushing vocabulary words and doing it in a real unique way.”

Kiepe believes the library should have a major teaching role in the school.

“It should be the center of the school and the center of curriculum,” said Kiepe. “We do a lot of online learning which is great, but there is something about being able to have books in print that we can manipulate and turn pages. To me, it is easier to comprehend when you have that printed page in your hands.”

Through a grant, school purchased scrabble boards which have been mounted to the walls.

“We are using the boards to teach kids how to spell a word,” Kiepe said. “We show what the word meanings are through scrabble dictionaries; how to build words.

“We are getting ready to do book checkouts soon. I am still getting books processed.”

The school has recently acquired a set of puppets through a grant.

“We are getting the kids to learn new vocabulary words,” Kiepe said. “If you have a strong vocabulary, you will be a strong reader.

“They work in groups of two with the puppets. They will take a new vocabulary word, look it up in the dictionary, and write it in a sentence. Then they figure out how to act out the word with the puppets,” Kiepe said.

There is a puppet stage in the library that looks like a barn and use their puppet to tell a story. Not only are they using the words with the puppets but they are teaching their friends about the words, too.

“They learn how to spell it, the definition and how to use it in a sentence,” Kiepe said. “And they will learn how to act it out.”

Kiepe has students in centers while teaching library skills and how to use the library.

Originally from Memphis, Kiepe has been in education for around 30 years. She got her bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from the University of Memphis. She has a master’s degree in family therapy from Reformed Theological Seminary. She earned her library degree by an alternate route.

“I got into the library about 23 years ago,” Kiepe said. “I can say I have worked at all three school systems here in the county. I started at Pearl River Elementary with the Tribe. I worked there for 1½ years. Then I went to work at Neshoba Central and stayed 20 ½ years. I started here this fall.”

Kiepe has other irons in the fire. She helps her husband pastor a church in Cuba, Ala., on weekends.

She does an international education travel program. She had five international trips planned this year which were canceled because of the COVID-19.

“I love being a librarian and I am enjoying teaching here,” Kiepe said. “I am having a blast. The atmosphere here is wonderful. There is great teamwork and the kids are so sweet.”

Philadelphia’s Travis Creel is happy to have Kiepe working in his school.

“She is tying in so many levels of literacy,” Creel said. “She is working with the puppets and vocabulary words. We have an upper and lower grade word of the week.

“Also, a big part of our literacy is being able to retell a story once you have heard it. That fits right in with the puppets.  She has set the bar high.”

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