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Melissa Waring turns a new page at Corinth-Holders Elementary

Sitting at the northern point of Johnston County lies a magical place. It isn’t the tobacco farms or the strawberry fields that create that feeling of wonder and amazement. 

It’s the media center at Corinth-Holders Elementary School (CHES), specifically, Media Specialist Melissa Waring. Voted by her peers, she was recently named Johnston County Public Schools (JCPS) 2022 Media Specialist of the Year. 

Waring is a magician when it comes to her media center. There is a palpable sense of peace, calm, and care the moment one enters the space. The books are arranged with love, and the brightly colored baskets and signs gently call you to explore without hesitation. 

Originally from Philadelphia, Waring with her husband and three children moved to Johnston County in 2017. “We’d had enough,” she said about living in Philadelphia. So they packed up, moved south and landed in the small, tight-knit community surrounding CHES. 

When they moved, her three children were of elementary age and would be attending CHES, so she called the school, scheduled a tour, and was immediately impressed.

During the tour, Waring noticed how beautifully the halls were decorated. “I thought to myself, “These teachers really care about their kids!’” she recalled.  “I just fell in love with it.”

Being a mom who was interested in her children’s education, coupled with the fact that Waring was a lifelong reader and lover of all things books, she began volunteering in the CHES media center under the supervision of Media Specialist Vanessa Batts.  

Waring mostly shelved books, although she would get swept away reading the back covers to see what the books were about. “Growing up, books were what I did, ” she said. She was that self-proclaimed nerdy kid that would challenge herself to read a section of books in the library at a time.

The first book she read on her own was The Three Bears. She was so excited, she ran downstairs to share her accomplishment with her parents. Waring was elated that the things on the page finally meant something. 

“Then I couldn’t stop,” she recalled. Any book that Waring could get her hands on she wanted to read because she could. As an adult back in Philadelphia, she even volunteered at the local library just to be around the books.

Waring's favorite genre is historical fiction, and at one point planned to teach history. She even earned an associate degree in early childhood education, but was distracted by a lucrative insurance position.

Then her children came along, and her new full-time job became taking care of the three children, including twins.

In 2018, Waring and her family’s life took a dramatic turn. She was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. Although she underwent chemotherapy, hair loss, and a double mastectomy, she still volunteered at CHES.

It should come as no surprise that Waring was the 2019 Volunteer of the Year at CHES for her efforts in the media center.

During all of this, Waring earned her substitute certification through Johnston Community College and began substituting mainly in fifth grade. Waring was scheduled for reconstructive surgery on a Thursday, and that next Monday she was back in the classroom fulfilling her role as a sub.

Then the unthinkable happened. Media Specialist Vanessa Batts, was transferring to another school. “I was devastated!” she exclaimed. “I loved working with her.”

At this point, Waring had become a full-time substitute teacher and she wasn’t as involved in the media center, but when she heard the news, she got busy.  

Waring became laser focused on earning her master’s degree so she could get the media specialist position. “I didn’t want it to go into the wrong hands, “ she laughed.

Now that she’s the media specialist at CHES, Waring doesn’t plan on leaving. “I tortured myself going through the master’s program for this school,” she said jokingly. Considering her peers voted for her as Media Specialist of the Year, the feeling is mutual.

Waring knows that her job is more than just books. She’s had some students that weren’t into reading at all, but she was able to convert them into readers.

There was one boy who was hard as nails, and wouldn’t check out any books. “I don’t read books!” he declared. Waring saw this as a challenge. “I asked him about the last book he read that he liked,” she said. The answer was the Guinness Books of World Records.

Although that book wasn’t available, Waring knew there was a new one coming out. She suggested a comparable book and told him when he came the next week that the new Guinness Book of World Records would be there. She made sure of it. “If I say something will be here, it will be here, and if I say I’m going to do something, I do it,” she remarked.

Consequently, that boy read every graphic novel she had available in her media center. “I gained his trust,” she said. Waring understands that some of her students don’t have the best backgrounds and haven’t been encouraged to read, and may also have learned not to trust adults.

Another notable student of Waring’s was a girl who was having a bad day and came into the media center crying. Waring knew the student’s potential, and took the girl under her wing. 

Although the girl wasn’t as comfortable reading as other students involved in Battle of the Books, which Waring and her students were Johnston County champions, she suggested books for her to read. Waring allowed her to still come to the Battle of the Books meetings and they even made her the team anchor.

Now, that same student has already shown interest in the summer reading program. “She just needed confidence, “ Waring commented.  It wasn’t just the books, but the group she was surrounded by helping her through osmosis. In fact, her reading level scores came up this year. 

When asked what Waring loves the most about CHES, she replied, “Everything…the family atmosphere, how everyone looks out for one another, and that the teachers truly care about the students.”

She makes it a point to do special things for the teachers. “It’s my job to make their job easier,” she said. Waring created four challenges in which there would be a bucket of books for the teachers to read (these were short, picture books) and whoever read the most by the end date won a $150 scholastic gift card to buy books for their classroom libraries.

Waring’s goal for her media center is to be completely reflective of the population at hand. She wants all of her students to see themselves as a character in a book. “I love these kids and they know it!” she proclaimed. 

“I get to be the fun aunt,” Waring said of her time with her students. She does a conga line when it’s time to line up to leave. 

She also works closely with the guidance counselor at CHES to conduct activities in the media center. 

Waring credits her enhancement team as a big part of her success. “I could not do what I do without them and the support of the principal,” she said. “My team is fantastic and without them this wouldn’t be possible.”

Waring is a gem at CHES, and being named 2022 Media Specialist of the Year truly encompasses what she does in her media center. JCPS is proud of the work Waring does day in and day out, along with the passion in which she brings to her position.