Library becomes Strange’s second home


Natalie Strange standing in the library next to a project that her students and her did.

When you walk into the library, you might notice that it’s decorative or maybe there’s a new puzzle on the table or a new mystery that you can try to solve and find clues. This year, there has been the opportunity to participate in an Escape Room. Media center specialist Natalie Strange is behind all of the exciting new developments at Northwest.

Strange started off as high school English and drama teacher. In her third year of teaching, the standards were changed, and she had to have a degree to continue teaching drama. Strange went back to UNC-Greensboro to get a masters degree in drama, but then she discovered she still wouldn’t qualify.

“I had to take a step back and look again at what I wanted to do,” Strange said.

Her mother was the one who suggested that she should look into library science since she always enjoyed being in the library.

“She [her mother] was a librarian assistant, so sometimes I would go and help out. I always enjoyed going to library,” Strange said.

After more than a decade of being a media specialist, Strange says she finds her job fulfilling. She enjoys helping teachers find resources or plan research assignments for their students. It has allowed her to explore knowledge and not be confined to one subject area.

“In the English classroom, I would be frustrated with the Canon literature that you are required to teach, and I didn’t feel like it was the best literature to teach some of my students,” Strange said.

In the library, Strange now has the ability to promote all kinds of literature.

“So, I went back and got my library degree. I started a program and actually only had one course under my belt, which was Internal Library Science,” Strange said.

Strange started as librarian back in 2000 at Northwest, but she only stayed seven years. Though she met her husband at Northwest during that time (honors and AP physics teacher Rice Strange) a new high school was opening, and she left to pursue the opportunity.

“I left in 2007 to open Northern,” Strange said.

Following Northern High School, she went to Piney Grove Elementary in 2009, and she returned to Northwest in 2016 when media specialist Trina Hunter retired.

“Every day there are new challenges,” Strange said. “Sometimes technology is a problem across multiple classrooms and you have figure out how to juggle time helping the teachers and continuing the obligations to the media center.”

Being a librarian isn’t as easy as it looks. There challenges, like finding ways to fund the library, is a struggle at all schools.

“I’ve been in some places [where] having the support of administration wasa challenge, but that hasn’t been a challenge here,” Strange said. “Mr. Kitley has been a supporter of the media center.”

Strange, who is also a mother of an elementary school-aged boy, has limited free-time. Everything revolves around her family and school.

“Even the traveling that I do with family I’m finding that sometimes it related to what I have been reading or what times of experienced we had at school,” Strange said.

On off time, her family does hiking and camping. Strange used to do a lot of Taekwondo.

“But it was too time intensive to maintain that training schedule and to be the librarian that I wanted to be in this job,” Strange said.

Strange also used to be a high school dance teacher. When she left Northwest to go to Northern, she taught dance there as well as being a librarian. Strange and Northwest English teacher Melanie Huynh-Duc even used to dance together. While Strange never performed with Huynh-Duc’s company, she said that that they were really impressive.

“I have not been a dancer since I had my son. I would love to dance with Mrs. Huynh-Duc again,” Strange said. “I think she could come up to open mic, and we can improvisation or something because still continues to dance.”

Strange danced since she was about four years old, and she started to teach dance when she was 15 years old. Strange had the opportunity to go to the North Carolina School of the Arts for dance. Strange also attended the North Carolina Governor’s School for dance.

“When I got to college, I took dance classes and had the opportunity to work few times as dance teacher or with one of the local companies,” Strange said.

Strange has worked in different settings of the school and has met different people with different cultures. Since she came back to Northwest, she has accomplished a great deal rearranging the books and redecorating the library. Strange thinks that leaving Northwest made her more willing to take risks.

“I don’t know if I would have been as willing to take those risks and changing things up if I haven’t been in other environments,” Strange said.

She says she enjoys shaking things up.

“If they don’t happen to work out, then you can learn from it and try to make things better,” Strange said.

When Strange looks back, she would give one piece of advice to her younger self when she started working.

“I think I would encourage myself to be braver and push boundaries more,” Strange said. “I think what I learned is that there’s a low of growth that could happen then and a lot of change, but that can be a scary thing to do. A lot of people are uncomfortable with changes.”

Senior Chris Gillet has fourth period in the media center with Strange. Gillet knows that Strange won’t let him slack off.

“She doesn’t let us off easy with anything,” Gillet said. “If she gives us an assignment, she expects to be done, and if we know best, we get it done when she requests it to be done.

“She is very awesome.”