black eyed susan flowers in a bunchMaryland's Monthly Amazing School Librariansblack eyed susans in a bunch

Nominate yourself! Nominate a friend! Help us to celebrate the amazing school librarians around our state each month: Click Here for the Nomination Form 

April 2021


Niketha McKenzie
School Librarian
Cheltenham Youth Detention Center
Maryland State Department of Education
Niketha McKenzie currently serves as the School Librarian for Cheltenham Youth Detention Center. She has fifteen years of experience working in K12, public and academic libraries. She has a passion for library programming and engaging students in reading as a way of encouraging good decision-making. Her aspiration is to obtain a Ph.D. in Urban Leadership and Policy. She embraces the meaning of equity and inclusion in the Juvenile Justice System. She works tirelessly to make student feels safe and welcome in her library space. She is creative and has created many opportunities for her students including a Arts and Writing magazine, podcasting, a virtual library space. Librarians at JSES work under strict security restrictions, but she always finds a way to bring quality library instruction to her students. Finally, most of the JSES students are not regular readers. Niketha uses reading incentives, clubs, and building relationships as a way to make our students readers. In addition to her library space and building student trust, Niketha is a important part of our teacher network. She finds resources, helps to plan, and even co-teaches with the social studies team. She uses instructional technology to bring engagement to the virtual classroom. She has also been able to meet the digital literacy needs of our students by co-teaching a Media Literacy class. Finally, Niketha is a dynamic team member for the entire school. She has created resources and office hours to help students who need assistance navigating both the content and learning platform in the virtual learning space. She is often called upon to go above and beyond her librarian role and she always accepts the challenge with a smile and humor.
One of Niketha's favorite programs was a black history program focused on the theme The Great Migration: Movements in Black History. "This program was so special because the youth at Cheltenham researched and created a variety of different presentations in order to express what they learned about that period in history. Students were proud of their performances and enjoyed the work of their peers. The students were instrumental in facilitating the Black History Program and they showed that they could work together to accomplish a task. It was truly a beautiful experience to see youth people demonstrate excellence in spite of their circumstances".
One of her favorite quotes is “Service is the rent we pay for being. It is the very purpose of life, and not something you do in your spare time.”-Marian Wright Edelman

March 2021

Randi Trzesinski & Katherine Florida
School Librarian
Oakland Mills High School
Howard County Public Schools


We have been working together for 6 years and have had a blast making the Media Center a welcoming and engaging place for our school community. We have found that our strengths complement each other and together we are able to make creative ideas come to life. We love collaborating with teachers in their classes and chatting with students when they pop into the Media Center. Working with our students is the absolute best part of the job. Randi is a National Honor Society sponsor, and Katie sponsors the Student Government Association. We make it a goal in every aspect of our Media program to make sure that students know they are valued, important, and that their voice matters. Digital literacy and technology skills have been an important aspect of our job for years, but particularly this year, our expertise in that area has been called on frequently. Randi has been keeping our staff supported with best digital practices and Katie has been working with ELL students, many of whom are new computer users. Bringing student attention to our digital collections has also been a priority.

While in this virtual environment, we have been highlighting that the library and "the stories" are still here for you. One of our favorite things has always been creating large book displays with eye-catching visuals. (See pics on Instagram @omhsmedia). We are working on maintaining that same level of creative reading promotion by starting a blog and making videos. We have been hyping up the books we have been reading on our blog and social media feeds to encourage students to continue finding solace and inspiration in reading. We highlighted books we read over the summer, and the ones we are most excited to read next. Through our "Just Finished" feature, we are sharing what we have just read with a little descriptive blurb. We are trying not to write too much, both to make it manageable for us and give our readers just a little snippet to grab their interest. We are planning to encourage students to share what they have “Just Finished” on social media and through a Flipgrid on our Media resources page.


February 2021

Jennifer Siderius 
School Librarian
New Market Elementary School
Frederick County Public Schools


I've been in love with libraries since I was a little girl. To me, libraries have always been a safe haven where I feel encouraged to grow as a learner. I became a clerk at my hometown public library on my 15th birthday and have worked in libraries ever since! This marks my 20th year as a school media specialist but my 27th year working in libraries! I kiddingly tell my husband that I'm not qualified to do any other job; but really, I can't imagine doing any other job. Libraries have grown and changed over the years and that change keeps me enthused! I love the ever changing feeling of libraries--new books, new technology, new ideas, and new classes every hour. It’s that change that leads me to pursue new goals, such as installing both Lego and green screen walls for my students, leading virtual family storytimes with diverse literature, obtaining and renewing my National Board Certification in Library Media and participating in FCPS’ Vanguard program for blended learning. I don't know that the word "amazing" applies to me. But the words enthusiastic, passionate, helpful and creative do apply to me. I want others, especially my staff and students, to also experience the feeling of libraries being safe havens where they can grow as learners. That’s why I take my skills and try to lead the way, doing things like teaching an MSDE course for teachers at my school called “Tech Tuesday”, mentoring media interns, having a Family Checkout Night to close out each school year, and obtaining a grant for STEM kits for preK-3rd grade students that accompany Black Eyed Susan Nominees. At the end of the day, I feel amazing as long as I have helped someone!

One of my favorite programs was a Boys Book Buying Club during the 2017-2018 year. During previous years, I genrefied our fiction and nonfiction collections. That process revealed gaps in our collection, including topics most appealing to our intermediate male students. As a media specialist, I believe that there are no such things as “boy books” or “girl books.” However, I couldn’t argue with circulation data and students’ opinions. Male students in our fifth grade classes became my most reluctant readers and I found myself admiring the forthright honesty of a student, who bluntly told me, “Mrs. Siderius, I can’t find anything good to read in realistic fiction that has a male main character. I want something other than sports!” His comment inspired me to assemble a Boys Book Buying Club. An application was distributed via Google Forms to all male fifth grade students. On the application, they listed their strengths so I could pull together a diverse group of students. The club collaborated on a survey to identify the reading interests of our fifth grade male students and then distributed the survey through Google Forms. Afterwards, the club met weekly with me to sort and prioritize the findings of the data. We sent our topics to the children’s book buyer at our local bookstore, The Curious Iguana. She booktalked titles to club members, which they then ranked in order of preference for our budget. After our order arrived, the boys loved introducing the new books to their classmates! This project was memorable to me for two reasons! One, it taught me the importance of books as windows and doors for students’ needs. Second, the students’ energy forced me to think in a different perspective. It makes me want to have more purchasing clubs in the future!


January 2021

Mary Brooke Fitzpatrick
School Librarian
St. Leonard Elementary School
Calvert County Public Schools
Ha! What makes me amazing? It is the old cliché… I’m amazing because I’m part of an amazing (truly amazing) team. Being one enthusiastic librarian on an incredible team of amazing Calvert County Elementary School Librarians who enjoy sharing, creating, collaborating, and brainstorming with each other and then working together to write and create lessons and then share other lessons that we each design on our own makes me amazing. We build each other up… we support each other with suggestions, resources and encouragement which goes a long way, especially during these days of distance learning. On a team of eleven librarians, we each have our own styles, interests, and strengths, so it’s great to be continually inspired but not threatened by the talents and personalities of each teacher librarian. I love offering my students opportunities to hear new stories, learn new applications and foster their own sense of wonder. One of my charges each year is to work within my budget to choose new books. It’s a time-consuming task that I love. I spend a lot of time reading reviews, pondering published suggested lists and contemplating recommendations before placing an order. I consider the interests of my school community and balance that with the trends and recommendations of experts in the field. It’s important that my library collection includes a variety of popular topics and authors as well as a variety of viewpoints and cultures that reflect diversity. Fostering a nurturing environment where students share, care and learn is the focus of my library and the lessons I deliver. My intention is for students to open their minds and hearts to the world around them as they learn new facts, skills, lessons, and interests.

One of my favorite lessons is based on the book, Drawn Together by Minh Le’. It was one of a series of lessons that focused on the 2019-2020 Maryland Black-Eyed Susan nominated books. Before going virtual, we read the book and discussed the story. It does not have a lot of text, so students had to focus on the illustrations and see how the story was conveyed through the details; through the expression of the characters, the meaning of the choice in illustrations, the symbolism within the two styles of drawing and then the transformation within the two characters and their style of drawing. It is a book that needs to be savored and not just tasted! There were a lot of “Oh yeah”s, and “Oh, look at how”s.” Once we transitioned to virtual lessons, students were given the choice to use one of our school’s databases to research Vietnam and record what they learned (in a document, Wixie or Power Point), look up a Vietnamese recipe (or recipe from another culture) and make it, or create a drawing with at least one other person. They were also encouraged to: listen to the story read by the author, listen to an author interview and contact a grandparent or special person to talk about things have changed and/or stayed the same since they were a child.