A national contest has netted Tudor Elementary School a $30,000 prize, giving students and staff the chance to win even more this spring.

Tudor has been named a semi-finalist topping all elementary schools in the Follett Challenge, an annual contest held by the library-book manufacturer. The win earns the school $30,000 in Follett products and services.

"I was shocked, I love it, I was so shocked," said Tudor librarian Michelle Carton. "It feels really good to know we are finally getting some recognition. Things like [science, technology, engineering and math] are really important and I tried to incorporate that within the idea of 'global.' We look at global STEM projects."

Carton filled out an online questionnaire with five written components, also making a video demonstrating how her program is preparing students for the demands of the 21st century. There were thousands of innovative programs across the country nominated for this award, but Carton's "Young Global Citizens" program received the five judges' highest score.

Carton originally started her Global Education Alaska program as a Global Education Ambassador for the State Department. Carton traveled extensively under the program, teaching in Morocco.

"I was able to bring those experiences back here for the students," Carton said. "So they became fascinated through the experience."

Carton's students have learned about different foods and festivals from around the world. They have also examined why people see things differently in other nations, along with challenges the challenges they face because of their beliefs.

"I think it's really important for the kids to think outside of themselves," Carton said. "We talk about why some people don't wear shoes where they live, things like that."

Carton teaches 17 different classes in the elementary library, with various age ranges.  

"I cater differently to my older students; I would not teach the same way to first and second graders as I would the sixth graders," Carton said. "The big thing lately has been equality, because we have a lot of kids that are immigrants. We're one of the most diverse schools in the country, and they have a lot of feeling about that -- I give the kids a safe platform to talk about it."

As a semi-finalist, Tudor is now competing against the top middle and high schools for the contest's grand prize, an additional $30,000 Follett credit. Carton says the initial winnings will help update the library with books from around the world that are more relevant to the times.

"I want them to learn about a place like Argentina or Venezuela," Carton said. "The book I have is from 1999. I want to upgrade all my books to at least 2010, but they are all $30 each and that adds up fast."

The grand prize winner will be named on April 27.

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