BUFORD - Julie Richardson is not just a media specialist - she's an instructional leader at Jones Middle School, principal Richard Holland said.
"You make a difference with our teachers, and they make a difference with all of our students," Holland told Richardson on Wednesday after she was surprised with the news she had been selected as the Gwinnett County Public Schools Media Specialist of the Year.
Richardson was in the school's media center when Holland, carrying a bouquet of flowers, and Faye Curlee, the school district's director of media services and technology training, walked in bearing balloons and a pot of tulips to make the announcement.
"I was not expecting this at all," Richardson said. "I'm overwhelmed and humbled. I can't believe that I would be named the Gwinnett County Media Specialist of the Year. There are so many great media specialists in Gwinnett County."
Richardson, who has been a media specialist for seven of the 12 years she has worked for Gwinnett County Public Schools, helped open Jones Middle five years ago.
Jones Middle's media center is student-friendly, Richardson said.
"It's a very comfortable environment where students feel welcome," she said. "This is a place of teaching and learning. It's the biggest classroom in the school."
Curlee said Richardson exemplifies what the school district would like all media specialists to represent.
"She is a leader in her school, working with students and teachers to help support teaching and learning," Curlee said. "She is also a leader among her fellow media specialists in the district and across the state by presenting her knowledge of the research process and information skills at conferences."
Richardson collaborates with teachers to integrate information literacy skills into classroom assignments, which has helped students' scores increase on the information skills section of the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, Curlee said. She also incorporates innovative online tools and techniques into her media program, providing a virtual learning environment for students and teachers.
Whether she's bringing resources into a classroom, teaching literacy strategies to the staff or working with students in the media center, Richardson embodies a good media specialist, Holland said.
"I feel like she has been deserving of this kind of recognition for a long time," Holland said.