Angela from Fort Myers Beach, Florida
1. How long have you known the nominee and how did you come to know him or her?
I have worked with Dana Thomas for the past 9 years. She is the Media Specialist at our 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?
Dana is involved in multiple activities at our school. She coordinates a "Lunch Bunch" of students and faculty members, sort of like a book club. These members meet and discuss current young adult literature and create interest and "buzz" in our school about new authors. She also is part of our "One Book, One School" committee. Every year, we select a novel to read as a whole school project. The committee then creates cross-curricular tie-in lessons and activities to support the themes and content of the novel, which all culminates in an end of book fair. One year we were able to have the author himself come and talk with the students. Other years have been a Renaissance Fair and a Nautical themed event, with the Coast Guard bringing out one of their boats, the local HAM radio club bringing out their equipment and allowing student to talk with other HAM operators around the world, and the local sailing school coming to teach students about using sextants to navigate at sea and nautical knot tying.
3. How has the library, and the nominee in particular, had an impact on students and the learning process?
In addition to the activities listed above, she also helped coordinate the visitation of an authentic Holocaust era box car and literary tie in with the novel The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. She worked to bring in Holocaust survivors to give guest speaker presentation to the entire student body.
She makes sure that all students have access to interesting and engaging books by reading the current literature and listening to student suggestions on which novels are "hot" right now. Our school library consistently has the largest circulation out of all the other middle schools in our district primarily because of Dana's continuous updating of the inventory and working with local libraries to supply, on loan, books that we may not have in our school but that a student has requested. Plus I'm pretty sure she has Barnes and Noble on speed dial for those books she just really wants to provide for our students.
4. How does the nominee make the school a better place? Please be specific.
Her enthusiasm for reading is infectious. She works with local artists to create amazing displays for the media center and our common courtyard school entry. She is our go to guru when we want to create lessons to access multiple learning styles because she will work with teachers to create novel lists that tie in with whatever theme the students may be covering in different classes.
5. How has the individual demonstrated leadership in the school community or the profession?
She has won Media Specialist of the Year from our district. And as stated above, she heads or participates in many school committees where reading and instilling the love of reading is emphasized.
Last year, Dana organized an event where she worked with Lee County voting department, and they brought in the new optical voting machines and the students filled out ballots and voted on their favorite author and who they would choose for President- Obama or McCain.
I could go on and on about all the other interesting and extending activities Dana provides for our students and community, but I must end with this thought... she knows our kids, she knows our community, and she loves what she does. You can't ask for any more than that!
I grew up in a dysfunctional family and a economically depressed area. Alcoholism, mental illness and a sense of hopelessness permeated our home and no one in my family or at school had any hope that I'd amount...