Heather Duren was a reluctant reader growing up, and it wasn’t until college that she found her passion for reading.
It turned out, she was much more interested in learning about the real world as opposed to immersing herself in a fantasy one.
Now, as the media specialist for Cherokee Bluff Middle School, she is helping students find their passion for reading, especially students like her.
“As a kid growing up I was a reluctant reader, and so I'm kind of drawn to those kids who might not have discovered yet what they're interested in reading,” Duren said. “So I enjoy working with those kids and supporting them in helping them find what they're interested in reading, introducing the world of nonfiction and informational reading to them.”
Her overarching goal is “helping create an acceptance that that’s OK,” she added.
That is one of the reasons she has been named Hall County Schools’ 2023 Media Specialist of the Year. She will go on to compete at the state level and try to secure the ultimate recognition.
She doesn’t just hand down orders from up high — she’s in classrooms reading to students on a regular basis.
“She reads to kids … all the time,” Cherokee Bluff Principal Robert Wilson said. “She’s one of the hardest-working media specialists I know.”
Duren has been the media specialist at Cherokee Bluff Middle for the past five years. She was a math teacher before that at Lyman Hall Elementary.
She is currently leading several book clubs for fledgling or reluctant readers at her school. She brings in several books each week, reads a chapter or two from each and then as a class they hone in on one to read together.
“We get to talk about the book and make connections with their lives … and hopefully spark an interest in reading for them,” she said.
Duren is also working on building out the nonfiction section of the school’s library, including books about fishing and hunting, which has made one of her students particularly happy.
He had already read all their offerings, he told her, but he was ecstatic to learn a new shipment of books had come in.
“His eyes just lit up,” she said. “He was so excited that he was able to take two new books that he hadn't read before about hunting. So it's moments like that that make it all worth it.”