Theresa from Fort Myers, Florida

1. How long have you known the nominee and how did you come to know him or her?
I have worked at the school with Mrs. Thomas for the past 11 years. She is not just a colleague, but she has become a very good friend.

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?
Mrs. Thomas has become the backbone of cross-curriculum projects at our school. First, 4 years ago she developed a program called 'One Book, One School.' Every spring our entire student body reads 'One book' which is now chosen by a committee. For 2 weeks, the entire school collaborates on this project. We do projects related to the book, performances in the arts and the students thoroughly enjoy the time period. Mrs. Thomas has even arranged for one of the author's of the book to come and speak to the kids, as well. On the last day of 'One book, one school' there is a celebration festival which she always plans for the theme of the book. For example, last year we did Shakespeare's Secret and she had 'Queen Elizabeth' come to speak to the kids. She hid a diamond in the school and gave daily clues on the school news; the kids searched everywhere. There was even a play about the book. The events are all surrounding the book chosen by the committee that Mrs. Thomas leads. It is a wonderful way to end the year and it was all started by Mrs. Thomas.

3. How has the library, and the nominee in particular, had an impact on students and the learning process?
Mrs. Thomas isn't just a librarian at our school. She has made the library an extension of our classroom. I know that if I am working on a project, I can tell her what it is about and she will pull every book that she has relating to that subject. She teaches the kids how to research and helps them search. She spends countless hours planning library projects such as 'Lunch Bunch' which is a student book club. They read a particular book and after they finish, she orders lunch for them to discuss it. She has raised thousands of dollars during our book fairs, by planning elaborate contests between classes and decorating the entire library for the fair. She involves the administrators by having them dress up if we raise a certain amount of money.  I would venture to say that the impact that Mrs. Thomas has on our school is greater than any other person here. She goes above and beyond to help everyone.


4. How does the nominee make the school a better place? Please be specific.
There are numerous ways that Mrs. Thomas influences student learning, but one in particular stands out. Last year, Mrs. Thomas wanted the student to learn tolerance, so she asked the staff to help her plan a Holocaust unit. She arranged for a boxcar, that was used to transport Jewish people, to be at our school for 2 weeks. She pulled books from the library about the Holocaust and 3 survivors came to speak to each grade level. The students were amazed by them. Each subject area did a project...Algebra made a Holocaust children's memorial quilt and the math classes measured rice with each grain representing a child murdered. Social studies studied the history of the Holocaust. Language arts made butterflies with poems about tolerance. Mrs. Thomas also planned a Holocaust night and the daughter of a survivor came to speak. During that night she arranged for all of the student work to be on display and invited Jewish people from all the local counties to come. Mrs. Thomas has done many projects that have impacted our school, but this was by far the most profound. It has had a lasting impact on the tolerance level at our school and it left an impact on the staff. It was absolutely amazing and my kids from last year still talk about the projects and the unit!

5. How has the individual demonstrated leadership in the school community or the profession?
Mrs. Thomas not only helps our school, but she helps all of the local libraries. She has a 'library card' drive at the beginning of the year to get students going to the local library. One of the most amazing things to me is her dedication to the students at this school. If a student wants a book that she doesn't have, she will check the local libraries for it. If the students can't get transportation to get the book, she puts them on a list and by the end of the week she has made a trip to that library to pick up the book for that student.

Mrs. Thomas also makes a mental note of the types of books that each student likes to read. When she gets a new book in that she remembers will fit a particular child, she has it delivered to them in the classroom with a note saying, 'I thought that you'd enjoy this one'. It shows just how in tune she is with the students at our school.

She is also in charge of NJHS at our school and each NJHS member adopts a library shelf. The keep it neat, organized and clean throughout the year. NJHS, through Mrs. Thomas, is in charge of our school 'going green'. Through her organization the school recycles everything possible from ink, to boxes, to paper, etc. Even the teacher's lounge lost the styrofoam cups and switched to bringing our own from home.
  
Last year, Mrs. Thomas organized for our school to 'Vote for President'. The local officials came, she had real voting booths, campaigns were held in the library and the local media came. It was just amazing and once again, although she involved every teacher in the school it was Mrs. Thomas that arranged for the entire event.

I could tell you thousands of stories, projects, activities and curriculum that she has enhanced by involving herself in our classrooms. She is an amazing professional and person; we are blessed to have her!