LAWRENCEVILLE - When Susie Fancher was growing up, books such as "Mr. Popper's Penguins" and the Nancy Drew series helped cement her love of reading.
Now Fancher, 59, spends her days helping the 1,150 students at Craig Elementary School develop a love of literacy. She's also an integral part of the school, helping students access and evaluate information and suggesting materials for teachers to use in the classrooms.
"So much of our lives are centered around information," Fancher said. "Students who are not able to read information and access information are not able to be successful."
Fancher, who has been the media specialist at Craig Elementary for nine years, has been selected as Gwinnett's Media Specialist of the Year. The announcement was made Tuesday in the lobby of the school, just after school dismissed for the day.
Fancher was presented with a placard, a bouquet of flowers and some balloons. A group of students came up the hallway and sang, "For She's A Jolly Good Fellow."
"She is awesome ... in helping promote reading and literature in our school," Craig Assistant Principal Pat Williams said. "She is truly the heartbeat of our school."
Fancher has gone above and beyond her job duties, Assistant Principal Susan Kemeter said. "She set up a center where parents can find books on how to help children who are struggling in school or how to improve conversational English."
Fancher, who started working in Gwinnett County Public Schools in 1990, is certified by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards. She was also recognized as Craig's Teacher of the Year in 2001 and 2003.
Two teachers, Sue Kliefoth and Debbie Fletcher, nominated Fancher for the award.
As the county winner, Fancher will advance to the district competition. The Georgia Library Media Association will name a state winner from the top media specialists in each district.
As a former classroom teacher, Fancher said being a media specialist allows her to combine her love of teaching with children's literature.
"The kids hug me because I let them take a book home," Fancher said. "It's a wonderfully positive place for everyone. ... I have the privilege to be there to help them."