Alissa Stribling is a UNC alumnus who credits her elementary school librarian, Ruth Eddy, for her own creativity, resilience and passion for reading. Eddy died in 2011 at the age of 91. Eddy earned her master’s degree in library science from UNC-Chapel Hill in the 1967 and became the librarian at Estes Hill Elementary School in Chapel Hill soon after.
Staff writer Rachel Herzog spoke with Stribling about her elementary school librarian, illiteracy, and the lasting impact one teacher can have on a student.
The Daily Tar Heel: Could you summarize how Mrs. Eddy ran her program and what made it so impactful?
Alissa Stribling: She was a devoted, astute librarian who ran a great program.
First of all, she brought passion to reading and learning. She brought a passion to her job. It wasn’t just a job. It was a calling. It was a calling to share her joy of reading. As a kid, I was excited to go to the library, and I realize now as an adult how her passion for reading made that possible. She engaged us not just with her wonderful, outgoing personality and her love of books. She followed this up with her methodology — we would have a reading circle and I remember her discussing books with us. Her personality was a strong part of that.
I also think she had some say in what books the library had, and she picked highly recognized and awarded books for us, which fortified my love of reading.
DTH: Do you think that Mrs. Eddy was aware of the impact she had?
AS: I don’t know that I ever told her because I didn’t normally think of this as unique. I hadn’t been out in the world yet — seeing negativity and people not as passionate about their jobs.
I’m doing some volunteer work for an organization that supports veterans, which involves writing projects and using the critical reading and thinking skills that she helped instill in me. All the pain of not being able to thank her now resurfaced. I hope she got lots of thank yous during her life. She died without knowing the thoughts that I had and the wonderful memories. You just can’t thank a teacher enough.
DTH: Do you feel called to help others by promoting literacy because of Mrs. Eddy’s impact on you?
AS: Yes, I would like to volunteer to help people to learn to read to be a tutor. It would be a way I could pay tribute to her by giving the gift she gave me to someone else. I think I would love to tutor someone in reading.
DTH: What would be your advice to people who want to make an impact on others by fighting illiteracy?
AS: Find a volunteer opportunity closest to you where you would be able to tutor a child or an adult and start making a difference right away.
It’s amazing how elementary school education impacts the rest of a child’s life. When someone teaching a child has a passion for what they do, it is a powerful weapon for good.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.