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'It means so much to me' | Gwinnett school librarian named finalist for Global Teacher Prize

Cicely Lewis was chosen out of 8,000 applications from 121 countries, according to the Varkey Foundation.

GWINNETT COUNTY, Ga. — For Cicely Lewis, teaching is about connecting. 

The librarian at Meadowcreek High School said she lives for the "spark," or the moment when she can connect a student with a book.

"Just be able to see the excitement and that passion," she said. "People talk about making a lot of money. I make a difference and that's the greatest reward in the world."

For about 18 years, Lewis worked in a classroom or media center. She spent 12 of those years educating students in Norcross. Now, she is being recognized for her work on a global level. 

Lewis is one of 50 educators to be named a finalist for the Varkey Foundation's Global Teacher Prize. The winner will receive a prize of $1 million dollars. 

Lewis made the final group out of 8,000 applications from 121 countries, according to the Varkey Foundation. The prize will go to an exceptional teacher who made an outstanding contribution to the profession.

One of Lewis' contributions is her program called "Read Woke." It is a book club and literary advocacy group designed to encourage students to read about social justice issues and challenge the status quo.

Her program is going global, too. She said students are now participating in Scotland and Quebec. 

She said she hopes to use this honor to advocate for librarians everywhere.

"For me to get this award and to amplify the voices in the work of librarians, it means so much for me," she said. "School librarians are teachers, too. We are a vital asset to school achievement." 

If she wins the grand prize, Lewis said she wants to go back to her hometown of West Point, Mississippi, in a bookmobile and donate free books to different communities.

"Reading saved my life," she said. "I went through a lot of things growing up and I would lose myself and escape in these books."

She also wants to offer college scholarships to students, provide book grants to teachers and provide to schools to help make reading and activism a priority. 

The winner will be announced in November.