Feb 28, 2024
Topic: My Why
Donna McDonagh “makes this place what it is,” says Amy McCall, literacy equity teacher at London Middle School, as she’s heading out of the library and media center for the day. “She makes it all look easy and is incredibly wonderful to work with.”
The sentiment is not lost on McDonagh, who is currently an LMC assistant for the Lightning. “I love what I do,” she adds. “I want children to love learning, especially with reading.”
McDonagh has been in the district for more than 30 years, starting as a reading tutor and special education aide at Frost Elementary School (following a request from the principal at the time) before assuming the LMC role at that school in 1999.
Her presence in the district has expanded in the intervening years, from splitting her duties between Frost and Tarkington Elementary School and then a split shift between Tarkington and London. For the past three years, however, she has called only London home.
“I was terrified to come here, actually, but it’s actually been pretty fulfilling,” McDonagh said. “It’s a completely different environment.”
She finds her reason in helping kids “grow their mind,” especially by aiding them in discovering books on topics in which they may have an interest, but are unsure on how to proceed. “I had one student come in recently and tell me he hated reading,” McDonagh said. “I said, ‘are you kidding me? There has to be something that you like.’ So I had him take [Margaret Peterson Haddix’s] ‘Among the Hidden,’ which he sat and read because we had ACCESS testing. After that wrapped, he came up and told me ‘wow, you were right, this is a really good book!’ You just have to find the right book for the right kid.”
McDonagh also borrows a saying from former Frost library media specialist and gifted program teacher Margaret Keefe (and, to a lesser degree, Dr. Seuss): “The more you read, the more you know; the more you know, the more you grow.”
Helping kids stand out with their literacy skills is one of many passions for McDonagh, who likes to spend her down time traveling, exploring the world of arts and crafts, or spending time with her family. She would also describe herself as semi-adventurous…but only to a degree: she has a slight fear of “someone not doing their job, and I guess in that vein, I’m a control freak.”
McDonagh has also seen the value of CCSD21 from the parent perspective, as all three of her daughters attended Frost and Holmes Middle School, even though she was “never mom at work.”
“One of the nurses [at Frost] at the time had no idea [my youngest daughter] Michelle was my kid until probably the fourth grade,” she adds.
Having been exposed to the district as both an employee and a parent, McDonagh is grateful for everything it has given her.
“District 21 has always been in my heart,” she said. “It gives me nothing but pride to work here. It gives me great pride to know my kids went to school here, and the plethora of learning they received while here. It’s been a phenomenal district both to work in and learn in.”