Highland Park Middle School librarian Jill Bellomy can’t say it with absolute certainty, but she’s fairly confident she’s the only HPISD employee who’s been to new-teacher orientation four times.
Bellomy’s introduction to the district came in 1991 at Armstrong Elementary, where she worked as a second-grade teacher just after graduating college. After a brief stint at the Covenant School, it was back to HPISD to teach at Bradfield for two years. Next came a break from the full-time grind, which allotted just enough time for a year-long experiment with architecture school. (“I thought, why not just pursue that and see if something’s there, and at least I’ll know,” Bellomy said.)
A position as a reading and language arts teacher at McCulloch put Bellomy back in the district, and eventually transitioned her into a role as an elementary librarian. But then a pesky “life-long learning” itch kicked in, which sent Bellomy to Texas Woman’s University in pursuit of a Ph.D. in library science. This time, Bellomy thought, she was really going to take an extended leave of absence — schoolwork would be her sole focus, which meant leaving the bookshelves behind.
“I was going to go [to school] full-time there for a while,” Bellomy said as convincingly as possible, although her seat inside the brightly-painted HPMS library office made it clear that things didn’t exactly go according to plan. “And then when this came up, it [was] a great chance to come back.”
Despite a heavy workload in her Ph.D. program, Bellomy couldn’t resist the lure of the library — especially once she heard that longtime HPMS librarian Sally Collins’ retirement had left a position open at her old stomping grounds.
“My heart always will belong to Highland Park ISD,” Bellomy said. “It’s such a fabulous community. I had such a great experience from day one here with supportive families, amazing students — everyone is so supportive.”
Another plus: working side-by-side with friend and former Bradfield colleague Leesa Cole, who’s now the librarian for McCulloch.
“She is a true partner in every sense of the word,” Cole said. “I was thrilled, as a matter of fact, when I called and told her that we had a position open up and she said, ‘Oh I might be interested.’ And from that point on I was like, ‘Please, let it happen. Let all the stars align.’ Because I knew it would be fabulous, and it is.”
Both Cole and library assistant Kathy Gardner were quick to describe Bellomy as a hard worker with a heart for students and a serious creative streak. Which, among other reasons, is exactly why the self-described “lover of learning” will be receive a scholarship at TWU’s 11th annual Virginia Chandler Dykes Leadership Award Luncheon next week.
“[Jill] was nominated because of her character, personal and professional accomplishments, and community service,” said Nan Restine, dean of TWU’s College of Professional Education. “She is gracious, thoughtful, dedicated, and passionate … like [award namesake] Virginia.”
Until the award luncheon, Bellomy — who described her selection for the scholarship as a “huge honor” — will work on preparing a statement detailing her research interests (practices of adolescent readers) and possible future plans (teaching at the university level). For now, though, she’s staying in the moment — which means drafting plans to revamp the HPMS library (fresh paint, updated technology, and new furniture will give the space a “teen lounge” vibe), hosting student book clubs during lunch hour, and more.
“I’m thrilled to be in Highland Park. I’m thrilled to be doing what I’m doing,” Bellomy said. “My main thing is connecting kids with books, and I need kids to do that.”
Hence the librarian’s most recent appearance at last fall’s new-teacher orientation. And although her full-time position at HPMS will undoubtedly bring a few changes to her study schedule, Bellomy doesn’t mind that her life has become quite the page-turner. Again.
“Even though it’s going to slow me down a little bit on my schooling, I’m not in a huge rush. I love to learn, and I’m not going to stop with that,” Bellomy said. “This is the next chapter.”