Julie Hatsell Wales: The Light Within

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By Steve Zalusky

Prominent among this year's list of 2012 Carnegie Corporation of New York/New York Times I Love My Librarian Award winners were school librarians.

Their presence reflects the important place they occupy in the minds of teachers, parents and students.

One of the winners, Julie Hatsell Wales, school librarian at McNair Magnet School in Rockledge, Fla., provides an excellent example.

"Have you ever met someone that makes you smile when they walk into a room?" asked one of her nominators, Shereen Luchten. "Julie has a light that shines from within that can turn your day and that of any student around with a simple gesture or comment."

Luchten said that one social studies teacher, Vicki Karedes, told her that whenever she needs help, she just needs to ask once and Wales is there to assist.

Wales works with Karedes every two weeks in helping her teach students how to use technology in the study of social sciences, including the use of databases to probe reliable sources.

She also students how to create presentations of information with such programs as Prezi, PhotoStory and Glogster.

Wales' essential role at the school is borne out by comments from teachers.

Cliff Schmitt, Social Studies teacher, said, “Julie is the glue that holds this school together.”

Mary DeRossett, new Language Arts teacher, said, “I wouldn‟t have made it through the year without her.”

Wales worked hard to improve student reading performance, writing grants in amounts ranging from $500 to $1.9 million to acquire needed resources.

Upon her arrival at McNair in 2001, 65 of the 8th graders were scoring at level 1-2 on FCAT Reading (well below grade level). In the 2012 FCAT only 34 percent  scored at level 1-2 on FCAT Reading. But after eleven years of revamping the media collection, working with administrators and teachers, mentoring students, educating parents and promoting reading with a wide variety of activities, significant strides were made. During 2012 FCAT Reading, 54 percent of 8th graders scored at levels 1-2.

Wales has also made a more general positive impact on the McNair community. The school began its existence in 1990 as a magnet school for the gifted and accelerated while still serving the local population of students for 7th and 8th grades. Until 2005, the school‟s population was 70 percent minority.

In 2005 the school was awarded a million dollar grant, written by Wales and another staff member, that allowed for the addition of another magnet school for the performing arts. All students were given the chance to learn their core subjects through the application of the performing arts versus the prior magnet program that was for only a select group of students. Teachers were also taught to apply music, dance, drama and the visual arts into all subject matters. As a result, the students showed a greater interest in learning, which was reflected on state assessments. Today, the school‟s magnet has balanced the student population to 50 percent minority/50 percent majority.

Wales' commitment to McNair is undeniable. But it was made particularly evident when she turned down a promotion to a district-level job to remain at McNair.

In the video below Julie Hatsell Wales speaks about what it means to win the 2012 Carnegie Corporation of New York/New York Times I Love My Librarian Award.

Read more about the 2012 winners of the Carnegie Corporation of New York/New York Times I Love My Librarian Award

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