Mara from Ft. Myers, Florida

1. How long have you known the nominee and how did you come to know him or her?
I met Ms. Thomas 14 years ago, when I became employed as a teacher at Cypress Lake Middle School.

2. How has the nominee helped you and/or students at school?  For example, did
the nominee helped you with a project, recommend resources or collaborate with you to enhance student learning?
When I was a beginning teacher Ms. Thomas assisted me with instruction of students. I worked with struggling students in a two period block of Social Studies and Language Arts. Ms. Thomas hosted my classes at the library where she provided instruction and assisted them in finding resources. When I wanted to use Folk Tales to introduce new cultures, Ms. Thomas located books and videos that supported this work. As I grew as a teacher Ms. Thomas became an even more important resource helping me plan projects and aiding students in research in books, magazines and on the web. Now I am the Assistant Principal. One of my initiatives was to begin a One Book One School project. This began three years ago. Ms. Thomas was my able assistant the first year, and now leads this project in which literacy learning is integrated across the curriculum. Another way she supports me every day is by creating an inviting, safe environment in the library. There are times when I need a quiet place for a student for a few moments, and Ms. Thomas welcomes these children. She also allows me to bring her a child who is badly in need of a wonderful book. After a few moments of conversation she is always able to place the right book in a child's hands, which often results in better grades, a sudden interest in a new topic or author, and a smile on the face of a student who was feeling lost and blue.

3. How has the library, and the nominee in particular, had an impact on students and the learning process?
Ms. Thomas has impacted student learning through media center projects such as the Lunch Bunch Reading Club for students, the Holocaust study unit which involved community members and the Holocaust Museum, and the Annual Book Fair which is more than a book shop, but each year includes exciting learning themes which introduce students to new books and new authors. Her theme this year, "Brush up on Reading," included posters of masterworks of art exposing students to Van Gogh, Vermeer, DaVinci and others, integrating art history into literature. In 2008, Ms. Thomas contacted the Local Election Board and worked with Social Studies teachers to host a school-wide election using actual voting machines. We were the only school in the county which had access to the new electronic machines. Ms. Thomas, as leader of NJHS, has created a school-wide recycling project and assisted NJHS students as they taught the entire student population about green themes such as the need to recycle plastic and aluminum drink containers, and hybrid vehicles. Each year our school library has the highest circulation of any Middle School library in the District, despite the fact that we do not have one of the higher student populations. It is Ms. Thomas' constant efforts to bring in new books, highlight books through displays and activities, and make students welcome in the center that keeps the students coming in and the books moving off the shelves. Books in student's hands means learning is happening.

4. How does the nominee make the school a better place? Please be specific.
Ms. Thomas makes this school a better place by making the media center the heart of our school, where students are always welcomed and supported in their search for reading materials. She is committed to students learning how to conduct research and finds ways to help them access current reference materials on-line and from the shelf. She is also a team player, finding ways to use the library to support all faculty in their learning projects.

5. How has the individual demonstrated leadership in the school community or the profession?
Ms. Thomas volunteers each year to sponsor National Junior Honor Society. In this role she is a leader and she works to create leaders. She chairs the One Book/One School committee which involves the entire school, students, faculty, and all subject areas in a book study culminating in a school-wide learning activity. This project requires great leadership skills as three grade levels and five subject areas work together with the arts to enrich the reading experience.