Troup High’s media specialist keeps students engaged with reading

Published 8:45 am Thursday, April 27, 2023

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This week is National Library Week, a chance to highlight media specialists throughout the community.

Michelle Taylor, Troup County High School’s media specialist, said her career in education began in 1996 as a schoolteacher at Unity Elementary.

“I taught about 15 years there before going to West Point Elementary. It was during that time, I knew that this was something I wanted to do and went back to school to get my certification in Library Science,” Taylor said.

Taylor said she has been working as a media specialist for eight years — four at Gardner Middle School and four at THS.

Now as the media specialist for THS, Taylor said she and Kim Upchurch work to make the library like a common space for everyone. 

“We’re not your typical quiet library. At Gardner Newman, the kids were scheduled to come in once a week and to get a book, but this is a different take. We’ve revamped the whole place and made it more like a commons area,” Taylor said. “We keep it where we don’t have to shush or have to tiptoe around our students. It’s much quieter than classroom anyway, but we enjoy the energy that comes from being able to have conversations and engage with them.”

As a strong advocator of literacy, Taylor said she had been working to change the mindset of picking up a good book.

“This is a place for everybody, athlete, band, GreenPower, automotive — whatever your passion is, everybody’s welcome here. I think if we can get you here, we can get you to read,” Taylor said. “A lot of people say, I haven’t read since elementary school, middle school or I don’t like to read and we say, ‘Yeah, we can help you find you something.’ 

Taylor said she tries to take in to account what the students want to read and look at THS’s Lexile levels to get materials everyone can benefit from.

“We have a promotion that we started with the Troup Ambassadors to come up with a reading incentive that will give kids a prize for reading. This year it has been phenomenal — as of yesterday we’re up to 2,121 books checked out,” Taylor said. “I’m very proud of that number, and the kids are shocked to see how much they’ve read.”

Taylor said along with the reading incentive, the center has created book talks, contests and upcoming podcast.

In her time as a librarian, Taylor said her favorite part is the relationships she’s built with students.

“I love the relationships that I have with the kids. A lot of the students here are kids that I taught in third grade at West Point — to see them in another phase of their life is just a blessing to me,” Taylor said. “I already have that connection with them, and you don’t have to lay down that foundation of trust because they remember me from back then. It takes a lot of time off of building a relationship, and allows me to be somebody that they trust and confide in.”