AJC Celebrating Teachers honoree: Cicely Lewis

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is proud to announce its annual community recognition program – the AJC Celebrating Teachers Awards. We believe the very best of the best are worth honoring and giving them the recognition they deserve. This will be a moment of significant pride for the honoree, their family and school.

Cicely Lewis’ teaching career started earlier than most: at age 5.

Nicknamed “Schoolteacher” by family and friends, Lewis would play classroom with her younger sister and stuffed animals portraying students.

It’s safe to say that teaching’s in her blood. Lewis’ mother is a school counselor, her uncle is a college professor and both Lewis and her sisters have earned degrees in education.

Before teaching at Gwinnett County’s Meadowcreek High School, Lewis earned a Master’s in English from Mississippi College and a Specialist degree in Education Administration from the University of Southern Mississippi. She also recently completed a Media Specialist certification from Georgia Southern University.

During her 16-year career so far, Lewis has been an advocate for learning about other cultures and languages and even worked alongside novelist Toni Morrison in Paris, France, on a program entitled “Language Matters.”

Under her direction, Lewis transformed the school library into an inviting, collaborative space for learning.

In 2017, she launched the “Read Woke” challenge, which encouraged students to read books that “challenge a social norm, give voice to the voiceless, provide information about a group that has been disenfranchised, seek to challenge the status quo” or “have a protagonist from an underrepresented or oppressed group.” Teachers could incorporate the “Woke” books to their curriculums, too.

The challenge was featured in an article in the academic publication, the School Library Journal, and inspired teachers and students around the globe.

"When I started Read Woke, I asked myself how I could make an impact," she said in the article. "A quote from The Librarian of Auschwitz exemplifies my mission: 'The library has now become her first-aid kit, and she's going to give the children a little of the medicine that helped her recover her smile when she thought she'd lost it forever.'"

Lewis is currently working on her own “Woke” book — a young adult literature novel.