One Class at a Time presented by Chick-fil-A of Birmingham.

For 21 years, CBS 42 has been proud to present local teachers with $1,000 grants through its One Class at a Time program, honoring the educators who work tirelessly to make a positive impact on the children of Central Alabama.

This week, CBS 42 and representatives from Chick-fil-A of Birmingham took the time to drop by Oak Grove High School in Bessemer, Ala. to surprise school librarian Brooke Wilkins, with a One Class at a Time grant totaling $1,000.

A school librarian for 14 years, the last nine of which have been spent at Oak Grove, Wilkins is passionate about the written word and the lasting impact that reading can have on young people.

“The reason I wanted to be a school librarian was because I wanted to instill a love of reading in kids and young adults,” said Wilkins, “I think kids often lose their love of story in middle and high school because they are pulled in so many different directions and have so many distractions.”

To help instill such a love of reading, Wilkins has worked with the English teachers and administration of Oak Grove to create and implement a school wide literacy program known as the School Wide Read.

Through this program, students in grades ninth through twelfth will read a book chosen for their grade level, with each book being written by the same author. After having read the book, students explore the “cross-curricular concepts and themes developed in the text,” then producing written works of their own.

At the end of the program, the books’ author is invited to come work with the students. This year, author Wendelin Van Draanen’s work has been chosen as the subject of the School Wide Read.

Having written more than thirty award-winning novels for young readers and teens, interacting with and learning from Van Draanen would be invaluable for the students of Oak Grove, both academically and personally.

“It [student interaction with the author] takes the author from a name on the page to a real live person,” said Wilkins, “I hope students see that if they dream of being an author it is within their reach too.”

With Van Draanen already enthusiastically agreeing to come participate in the exciting culmination of Oak Grove’s School Wide Read, Wilkins’ One Class at a Time win was the final piece to the puzzle.

“Seeing our students’ responses to the author visit was one of the most rewarding and inspiring experiences of my career,” said Wilkins of last year’s first-ever School Wide Read, “I’m so excited that we’re going to be able to offer that opportunity to our students again this year with another amazing author, and I can’t wait to see how it enriches their lives!”

To nominate a local teacher for CBS 42’s One Class at a Time grant, apply here.