When Cindy Blosenhauer accepted a teaching position at Hillside’s Halpern Education Center last year, she was fulfilling a lifelong dream.

“I’ve wanted to teach since I was in the second grade, but life took me in different directions, including raising two kids,” says Blosenhauer, now 51. “This is my first full-time teaching job. I’m so excited to be here!”

One of the things that drew her to Hillside was the opportunity to work more closely with students on individualized instruction that met their unique needs. As part of that, she says, she envisioned a small space in the classroom that could be reserved for reading. “Some people think that kids just don’t like to read, but I think they do—they just don’t know it.”

Within a few months of her arrival, she had volunteered to take responsibility for the school’s library—a room in need of attention and imagination. “It was here, but nobody wanted to come in and I wanted to change that,” she says of the library space.

Following weeks of hard work and collaborations with her fellow staff, the Halpern Library re-opened earlier this year, better than ever. A room that previously stored books is now a reader’s paradise, with several thousand neatly shelved titles; tables and reading nooks carefully positioned around the space; and countless inspirational reading- and literature-themed messages adorning the walls.

“I wanted to make it beautiful, and intriguing,” Blosenhauer says. “One of the students saw a drawing of Peter Rabbit on the wall and asked about it, so I explained about Beatrix Potter and those stories. It started a conversation—that’s what a library should do.”

In addition to inspiring her students, her passion for teaching and reading has rubbed off on her son Emmett, who recently joined his mom at the same Hillside school as a Teaching Assistant.

“My daughter started kindergarten the day I went back to college, and we did our homework together at the kitchen table,” Blosenhauer recalls. “I love that they saw me do that, because it’s helped them have great respect for education.

“Getting back to school was a challenge, but I was glad to do it,” she adds. “And now it’s brought me here. I couldn’t be happier.”

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