A Librarian’s Authentic Love

By: Samy Rodriguez
“‘By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.’” -John 13:35 (NIV)

During this National Library Week, join us as we honor Mrs. Mary Kavanaugh, CCA’s beloved Elementary Librarian, who has served our school community since its opening. This interview highlights Mrs. Kavanaugh’s unique journey as a librarian, the literacy programs she has introduced to CCA, and her faithfulness to God’s calling.


For many students, families, and faculty who have been a part of the Calvary Christian Academy community for any amount of time, they have seen this verse stand true in the life of our beloved Elementary School Librarian, Mrs. Mary Kavanaugh. Through her embodiment of authentic love, one of CCA’s organizational core values, it is evident that she is a disciple of Jesus Christ!

 
Mrs. Kavanaugh has been serving as the Elementary Librarian for 21 years since CCA opened in 2000. As an alumna myself, I have been able to witness her impact on students and staff. She clothes herself with the “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” Paul spurs the people of Colossae toward in Colossians 3:12.

“Mrs. Kavanaugh is a wonderful combination of warmth and kindness mixed with laughter and love. She’s never too busy to give me an encouraging word or to pray with me,” said Nikki Bruce, CCA’s Elementary School Assistant Principal.

Chloe Carignan, a fellow CCA alumna from the Class of 2020, can attest to “Mrs. K’s” impact as well. “During my years spent in the elementary library, Mrs. Kavanaugh was always the highlight of my day. During high school, I would see her by The Grill and she would always have the most encouraging words to say to me. I’m so incredibly thankful for her and the love she pours into each of her students!”

After interviewing Mrs. Kavanaugh and learning more about her story, I caught an even greater glimpse into why and how she serves the community at CCA and the overall body of Christ with such genuine joy and unceasing passion.

What led you to become an elementary school librarian?

I actually studied Elementary Education at an outstanding teaching college in Massachusetts. I went into it thinking it would be very unglamorous because I really wanted to be an airline stewardess, but I was too short back then! I did not realize how much I would love teaching until I did my student teaching as a Junior and Senior.

After college, I got married, taught for a couple of years and then started a family. When all four sons were in school, I went back to teaching in the classroom for five more years. I’m a born teacher as our Lord showed me!
our Lord gave me an appreciation for reading and a passion for His Word, The Bible, my favorite book
My husband wanted to put our youngest son in Westminster Academy. Instead of taking a teaching position, I felt our Lord leading me to take the Library Assistant position. At the time, I did not understand why, because I hated reading as a child based on the way it was presented. Later, our Lord gave me an appreciation for reading and a passion for His Word, The Bible, my favorite book. I ended up taking the position as Library Assistant and continued in it for 10 years.

Toward the end of these 10 years, my husband suddenly passed away. My three older sons were already grown and out of the house, and my youngest was 15 years old. When a woman is widowed, the government gives her $250. That’s it. If she has any children under 18, they receive a Social Security monthly check. When my son turned 18, I stopped receiving the government’s check for him and needed to find a new job. It was then that our Lord called me to CCA.

How exactly did the Lord call you to Calvary Christian Academy?

I met a pastor on staff at Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale. I shared my story and my need to make more money for my son and I to survive. He offered me a job to organize his personal library. He also encouraged me to apply for a position at CCA, which would be opening later that year.
 
When I went in for the interview, they asked me to start the library. I did not expect or even want that because I felt my skills were better suited for an assistant position. I kept telling them that I would make a great “number two” person. The person interviewing me asked a very important question: “If Jesus asked you to start the library, would you?” I quickly responded yes in obedience to Him. When I left that interview, I felt Jesus whisper to my heart, “Mary, I am number one and you are number two.” So I accepted the position. What comfort and assurance from our gracious Lord!
When I left that interview, I felt Jesus whisper to my heart, “Mary, I am number one and you are number two.” So I accepted the position.
God was so good to let me fulfill my commitment to my job at WA until the end of the school year. At that time, I had three jobs: organizing the pastor’s library on Saturdays, working days at WA, and then at night I was ordering books for the new library at CCA.

So I began as the Elementary Librarian at CCA. The community I gained here has helped me tremendously. They truly have cared for this widow. I have been here ever since, and by God’s grace and the Holy Spirit’s strength, my passion has not dwindled. Even on the days that I am quite tired, I step into my library class and I just come alive, as I feel our Lord’s anointing!

What does your day typically look like as the librarian?

 
Normally before COVID, the Pre-K and Elementary students would come to the library where I would read them a story, teach them library skills and different genres, and help them pick out books. Now, I go around to the classrooms with a cart full of books that our Library Assistants select based on what genres the students like and what Accelerated Reader levels they are at.
In addition to my job as the librarian, I feel called to minister to those I pass in the halls and those I encounter throughout the day.
I still teach them library skills and read them stories, which is the “frosting on my job!” In addition to my job as the librarian, I feel called to minister to those I pass in the halls and those I encounter throughout the day. They may need a smile or a verse. It only takes a second to be a blessing. If I feel they need more time, I arrange to meet them when I’m not “on the clock.” Daily, I ask our Lord to bless me so that I will be a blessing to everyone I see that day.

What are some events or programs you have implemented as the librarian?

We have been doing the Accelerated Reader program since I began at CCA. This program essentially helps our students learn and grow in their reading comprehension skills at their own pace. They take quizzes on their books to gain more points for their personal goal by the end of each quarter. This allows for incentives if they reach or surpass their goal!

 
If they love reading, we encourage them to enter The Triple Crown Award Contest. These are elementary through middle school-level books that have earned a literary award. This is an optional reading contest students can compete in by reading 10 books of various genres from the list of Triple Crown nominees and taking a quiz on them in the span of six months: October to April. If they do so, they win a beautiful medal and one of my famous brownies! We also have two book fairs each year where we fundraise and use all the proceeds to buy more books for our students to enjoy.

Why do you do what you do?

I just love speaking into kids’ lives. My goal is to just keep pointing kids to Jesus, in any way! For example, if I see a child struggling with anger, I take them aside, speak to them in truth and love, and pray with them. If I catch them doing something kind or outstanding, I like to praise them big time and point out how they are acting like Jesus.

With everything I do, I seek to bring Jesus into it, and I just feel so honored and privileged to work in this ministry. When I first became a Christian, my prayer became, “Lord, I’d like to leave a trace of Jesus wherever I go.” It’s all about Jesus and people.

 
Hopefully, the story God has written in Mrs. Kavanaugh’s life has served as an inspiration to more boldly and consistently lead a life of authentic love for Christ and love for others while living out the calling He has for our lives. Through her example, we can learn how to view every life decision and experience as an opportunity to strengthen our faith, know Jesus more, and make his name known by loving and serving just as He did for us.

May we also pray as Mrs. Kavanaugh prays: “Lord, I’d like to leave a trace of Jesus wherever I go.”
 
If you’d like to leave Mrs. Kavanaugh a message of encouragement and thanks for her dedicated service to CCA, leave a comment below!
 
Samantha Rodriguez is a CCA alumnus from the Class of 2020. She now attends Palm Beach Atlantic University where she is studying Communications alongside Biblical and Intercultural Studies. She hopes to one day work in ministry using her gifts and passions for speaking, writing, and discipling, which were first ignited and grown in her time at CCA.

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  • Olga Gustavson
    Words can't describe how much we love Mrs. Kavanaugh, her hugs, kisses, prayers and genuine love for our daughter from day one has been a blessing for our family but especially for our Princess ? We love you and we ask the Lord to continue pouring blessings over you.
  • Kathryn Nguyen
    I love working and serving with Mrs. Kavanaugh. She never fails to point me to Jesus!
  • Mr. Merrill
    A heavenly hug every time you get in her presence
  • Elizabeth Aviles
    Mrs. Kavanaugh's huge heart for people of any age is an inspiration to me and I am sure to many others at CCA. Her heart shows in ALL she does because her love for God is tangible and you can feel God's love through her. I am grateful for her and so honored to know such lovely soul. -Liz Avilés
  • Stephanie Madison
    I watched my daughter receive a greeting every morning when she got to school. It made me feel safe and protected and you just don't know how much that meant to us. We appreciate you!

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