Cicely Lewis, who serves as the media specialist at Meadowcreek High School, has been announced as one of 50 finalists for the prestigious 2021 Global Teacher Prize, which recognizes an outstanding educator making significant contributions to their profession.
As a finalist, Lewis is eligible for the $1 million awarded presented to the winner of the Global Teacher Prize, which is sponsored by the British-based Varkey Foundation and attracted some 12,000 applicants.
“It would mean the world to me to win and so much to my students and the community I serve,” Lewis said. “I would be able to fund scholarships for students, grants for teachers, a bookmobile for my hometown of West Point, Mississippi, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.”
The prize is open to active teachers who instruct children in compulsory schooling or are between the ages of 5 and 18. Those who teach children age 4-and-up in an Early Years government-recognized curriculum are also eligible, as are part-time teachers and teachers of online courses.
Teachers must spend at least 10 hours each week with face-to-face instruction and must plan to remain in education for the next five years.
Lewis, who was named the School Library Journal and Scholastic 2020 School Librarian of the Year, expressed surprise to be named a finalist for the Global Teacher Prize.
“Many people don’t understand how important it is to have a school librarian in the building and I feel this sends a powerful message about the power of librarians,” she said. “This has been an amazing experience and receiving so many positive messages from colleagues, students and people across the world makes me feel like a million bucks. The outpouring of support that I have received energizes me and motivates me to do more.
Lewis, who moved to Georgia a dozen years ago, has a master’s degree in English from Mississippi College, a Specialist degree in Education of Administration from Southern Mississippi and a Media Specialist certificate from Georgia Southern.
A prolific grant writer, she won a $5,000 MTV Prom Challenge grant in 2020 for registering Meadowcreek students to vote and in 2017 she started the “Read Woke” program, which encouraged students to read books that “challenge a social norm, give voice to the voiceless, provide information about a group that has been disenfranchised, seek to challenge the status quo” or “have a protagonist from an underrepresented or oppressed group.”
The winner of the Global Teacher Prize will be announced in November.