Spring Woods High School Librarian Dan Nagel was named as the October 2014 recipient of the Spring Branch ISD Spotlight Teacher recognition during the regular monthly meeting of SBISD’s Board of Trustees.
This special recognition shines a light on educators across our school system who embrace the Spring Branch T-2-4 goal and actively go above and beyond to demonstrate commitment to, and actions in support of, this goal and the T-2-4 belief statements that undergird it.
SBISD’s T-2-4 goal, re-endorsed by Trustees recently, focuses on doubling the percentage of graduates who complete technical certification, military training, or a two- or four-year college degree.
Dan, who has taught in SBISD for 10 years, has transformed a quiet campus space into one of the school's more popular student gathering spaces -- before, during and after school.
Before the bell rings each morning, the school library and its nearby student-run “coffee shop” are popular stops for students and faculty. Mr. Nagel teaches database skills to many classes. After the final bell rings at 3 p.m., many Tigers head to the library to study, or to check out the notebook computers and wireless Clear Hotspots so that students can connect or work online easily from home.
The library is open until 4:30 p.m. three days a week, and until 5 p.m. on Tuesday afternoons. Dan is assisted in the library by Phillip Provenzano.
For Dan, checking out Clear Hotspots levels the playing field for all students. Digital databases and WiFi hotspots make it possible for students in tiny towns like Eden, Texas, where he once was librarian, or in small Spring Branch apartments where monthly rent is a family priority, to be just as connected as students living in affluent, wired households.
"He's the one who told me about the Internet WiFi equipment," says Vianky Villabos, a senior who interviewed at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., through the Posse Foundation.
“He always looks out for students. He read my resume and looked over my essays. He has put in a good word for me. He’s one of the reasons I was ever noticed [for Posse],” says Vianky, who is varsity basketball team captain.
His open-door, afternoon policy even draws graduates. Kimberly Batres, a first-year student at the University of Houston-Downtown, returns often to Spring Woods High’s library. “I don’t have a computer, only a phone. I use the computers here to do my school work. I do believe that this generosity will help me get through college,” says the 2014 Tiger grad.
Last year, Mr. Nagel rented a van and took students interested in graphic novels to the airport to pick up authors and artists who were presenting at a book convention. The students quizzed the authors during the ride to the hotel about their work and craft.
He may use modern learning tools and unusual methods, but Mr. Nagel's goals are shared by all librarians. "I want that light to come on inside," he says. "I had one student come in, slam down a book and say, 'I hated the ending! I loved the book, but I hated the ending.' For me, that was a great day. She read the book, and she really cared about it!"
Jo Ann Conlon, the district’s library system director, quickly lists more than a half dozen reasons why Mr. Nagel deserves this award: he believes in all students and loves what he does; teaches T-2-4 skills to students; keeps them interested in reading; he meets the needs of all; customer service; in one year, he created a vibrant, student-centered program focused on skills; and pride in his school.
His dedication extends beyond the traditional school day. “When there is an evening, or weekend program in the library, Dan goes above and beyond expectations making sure everything operates smoothly,” Director Conlon adds.
Dan doesn’t do it all alone, and he’s the first to mention others like assistant Phillip Provenzano when this award is mentioned. “Phillip is an integral part of the of the T-2-4 success story in this library. We might laugh about it now, but our campus ran out of SAT vouchers for economically disadvantaged students. Phillip and I claim this is because while Phillip is discussing college with our student customers, he tells them about the voucher program,” Dan says.
Dan grew up in a Navy family and moved often. A graduate of Killeen High School, he joined the U.S. Army after a couple of semesters at the University of Texas at Austin. He served 20 years as a non-commissioned officer in military intelligence, and served three tours in Europe.
For many years, he was an instructor at Goodfellow Air Force Base's education and training facility in San Angelo, Texas. Dan earned his bachelor's degree in business management through the University of Maryland while he was based in Germany.
His military training and reflexes kicked in when he received a recent personal phone call from SBISD Superintendent Duncan Klussmann, Ed.D. , who announced his award. “I got up out of my chair and said, ‘Yes, Sir!’ to him,” he recalls.
Dan’s feelings about the T-2-4 award includes a compliment for all school librarians. “This is a validation to me that all librarians are also teachers. That’s why I’m happy about the honor,” he says.
After Army retirement, he earned a teaching certificate through Angelo State University in San Angelo. He served as a librarian in the small, 300-student Sterling City ISD before joining SBISD as librarian at Treasure Forest Elementary School. He worked there for nine years.
He was recruited into SBISD by another great employee, the late district Library Director Barry Bishop, now deceased.
Dan began his second year as the librarian at Spring Woods High School this fall. We all thank Dan Nagel for his commitment to helping students achieve more than they think possible and for helping them reach our Spring Branch T-2-4 goal.