Six Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) school librarians were recently recognized as part of a School Librarians of the Year cohort by the Maryland Association of School Librarians (MASL).
Each year, MASL names one school librarian as its School Librarian of the Year for outstanding service and achievements in the field. This year, the association opted to recognize a group of school librarians. Out of 52 nominees from around Maryland, 38 were selected for special recognition. Six of the 38 are CCPS school librarians.
Those honored include Margaret Donahue of Henry E. Lackey High School; Karen Ferruzza of Arthur Middleton Elementary School; Heather Hartman-Jansen of Milton M. Somers Middle School; Dawn Murphy of J.C. Parks Elementary School; Lisa Smiroldo of Piccowaxen Middle School; and Tim Steelman of Theodore G. Davis Middle School.
“There are so many things that make someone a good school librarian,” Dedra Van Gelder, library media content specialist for CCPS, said. “First, they need to be excellent teachers. Teaching is a big part of what we do.” Leadership skills are another essential part of excelling in the position, as is being a team player. “You also have to be curious and have the spark to be a lifelong learner,” Van Gelder said. “Librarians are information specialists. We may not have all the answers, but we know how to find them.”
Margaret Donahue, Lackey
Donahue began her teaching career with CCPS as an earth science and chemistry teacher at Westlake High School before moving to Lackey as a high school instructional resource teacher. However, her “dream job” was librarian and she began library certification courses at the College of Notre Dame of Maryland, now known as Notre Dame of Maryland University.
“Transitioning from resource teacher to the media specialist role was extremely advantageous,” she said. “It provided me with a wealth of knowledge regarding curriculum across content areas and continues to be a great backbone for my instruction knowledge.” Donahue has been the school librarian at Lackey for seven years with the past couple pushing her to better develop technology expertise. “I can attest that there has not been a dull moment,” Donahue said.
Karen Ferruzza, Middleton
Ferruzza has been the school librarian at Middleton for 18 years. She earned a Bachelor of Science in elementary education from Salisbury University and a master’s in Technology for Educators from Johns Hopkins University. She received a library certificate from the College of Notre Dame of Maryland. Ferruzza taught fourth and fifth grade before becoming a school librarian. “I like teaching all grade levels,” she said. “I learn from all of them.” Ferruzza said she enjoys working in a school because she can combine her love of children’s literature with technology. “I work in a school because kids bring so much joy and inspiration to the world,” she said.
Heather Hartman-Jansen, Somers
Hartman-Jansen has been a school librarian since 2005. She received a Bachelor of Arts in history and English literature from the University of California, Irvine, and a master’s in library science from San José State University. Before becoming a school librarian, she taught students in elementary, middle and high school. “I went into the library field because it was a way to work with and engage all students,” Hartman-Jansen said. “Understanding information and resources are key life skills, as well as reading.” As a school librarian, Hartman-Jansen can tap into her teaching skills, as well as her information, research and technology know-how. “Every day is creative and new,” she said, adding that students in middle school are curious, earnest and fun. “And for the most part, they get my jokes,” Hartman-Jansen said.
Dawn Murphy, Parks
After earning her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Towson University, Murphy began teaching first grade at J.C. Parks. She also taught fourth grade at Parks and sixth grade English language arts at Theodore G. Davis Middle School. As a middle school teacher, Murphy felt that students were not as invested in reading as they could be. “I was losing the enjoyment of reading with students,” she said. Murphy earned a master’s in instructional technology from Towson and a certificate in library science from the College of Notre Dame of Maryland. In 2016, she became the school librarian at Parks. “I thoroughly enjoy reading with students and getting them excited about reading,” she said. Murphy likes to change her voice for different characters when reading picture books to younger students. With older students, she strives to teach them to be critical thinkers when reading and using media.
Lisa Smiroldo, Piccowaxen
Smiroldo has been a school librarian for 21 years — eight years at the elementary-school level and 13 in middle school. She has a bachelor’s in communications — radio, television and film, and a master’s degree in educational leadership — library media. Smiroldo went into the school librarian field out of the love for books and reading. “Promoting the love of reading with students and matching their interests with books is very rewarding — especially when students come back asking for more suggestions,” she said. Smiroldo also teaches students about media and digital literacy. “[It] helps them to become productive users of technology and more aware of making decisions based on what they have learned, not just believing what they see on social media,” she said. “I do enjoy being in middle school because of the conversation you can have with the students, and the personal growth you can see in them from sixth to eighth grade.”
Tim Steelman, Davis
Steelman has a bachelor’s degree in biology, a Master of Arts in education and Master of Science in library science. He has been the school librarian at Davis since 2010. He worked at a biological resource facility before becoming a classroom teacher. As a new teacher, he was assigned a mentor. Mary Gerrity, a school librarian, was his. Over the years, they talked often. “Ms. Gerrity was very effective in teaching me that many of my interests matched well with the field of librarianship without knowing that was what she was accomplishing,” Steelman said. A former science, math and computer programming teacher, Steelman sponsors STEAM-focused clubs at Davis and oversees a library aide program to introduce the librarian profession to students. “Middle school students creatively use their knowledge base to learn through exploring new ideas and concepts,” he said. “My favorite [thing] is listening to them talk about how great their newly discovered fiction or nonfiction book is as they read it or finish it.”
Over the summer, a MASL selection committee named Donahue, Ferruzza, Hartman-Jansen, Murphy, Smiroldo and Steelman as part of a cohort that exemplify the characteristics of a high-quality school librarian as set forth in the American Association of School Librarians National School Library Standards for Learners, Librarians, and Libraries.
Charles County Public Schools provides 27,000 students in grades prekindergarten through 12 with an academically challenging education. Located in Southern Maryland, Charles County Public Schools has 37 schools that offer a technologically advanced, progressive and high quality education that builds character, equips for leadership and prepares students for life, careers and higher education.
The Charles County public school system does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or disability in its programs, activities or employment practices. For inquiries, please contact Kathy Kiessling, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (students) or Nikial M. Majors, Title IX/ADA/Section 504 Coordinator (employees/ adults), at Charles County Public Schools, Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building, P.O. Box 2770, La Plata, MD 20646; 301-932-6610/301-870-3814. For special accommodations call 301-934-7230 or TDD 1-800-735-2258 two weeks prior to the event.
CCPS provides nondiscriminatory equal access to school facilities in accordance with its Use of Facilities rules to designated youth groups (including, but not limited to, the Boy Scouts).