Today, School Library Journal (SLJ) and Scholastic are announcing the 2021 School Librarian of the Year Award winners: Amanda Jones, Teacher-Librarian at Live Oak Middle School in Watson, Louisiana, and Diane Mokuau, Librarian at Molokai High School in Molokai, Hawaii.
Each year, the School Librarian of the Year Award recognizes K–12 library professionals for outstanding achievement and the exemplary use of technology and services to engage children and teens toward fostering multiple literacies. This recognition is especially important as librarians nationwide have undoubtedly stepped up to support students, families, and educators through a year unlike any other.
Amanda and Diane have gone above and beyond to keep opportunities for literacy at the center of their students’ lives while navigating the many unforeseen challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year’s award was judged by 2020 School Librarian of the Year Cicely Lewis, Ambassador of School Libraries for Scholastic Book Fairs John Schumacher, Superintendent of Schools at Brigantine Board Of Education Glenn Robbins, and a panel of SLJ editors.
Kathy Ishizuka, Editor-in-Chief of School Library Journal, says: “Exemplars of the profession, the 2021 School Librarians of the Year are particularly inspiring for their innovative work supporting student learning in such a challenging year. SLJ is pleased to share the good work of our honorees and highlight the important role of librarians in fostering multiple literacies and critical thinking skills in our nation’s schools.”
Learn more about Amanda, Diane, and the School Librarian of the Year Award, here, and below. Congratulations, Amanda and Diane!
Amanda Jones, Teacher-Librarian at Live Oak Middle School, Watson, Louisiana
Amanda has been a teacher-librarian at her alma mater, Live Oak Middle School, for six years. With over 20 years of experience, Amanda has served generations of fifth- and sixth-grade students and “grandstudents.” Amanda’s favorite thing about her job is that she has the opportunity to teach every student in the community, and she takes that responsibility very seriously.
Amanda’s library is the heart of her school. She describes it as an active and bustling place where students are free to laugh and learn. Amanda makes it a priority to share the magic of reading with her students and has created and hosted a number of engaging and exciting learning experiences, even while school schedules were disrupted as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. These special literacy initiatives for students include a Battle of the Books competition that has grown to 10 schools district-wide, the 40 Book Challenge created by award-winning teacher and author Donalyn Miller; the MESH Society (media literacy, ethics, sociology, and history), in which students read titles across these categories; and the wildly popular “Journeys with Jones” live-streamed events, where students virtually travel with Amanda to different locations around the world to learn about communities and cultures different than their own. Amanda also keeps an indoor beehive and a collection of Madagascar hissing cockroaches for students! All of these activities have cultivated a culture of literacy in Amanda’s school that has put a focus on encouraging students to find books that they like and enjoy reading.
Amanda has received a variety of honors and awards for her work as a teacher-librarian, including 2020 Louisiana School Librarian of the Year, Louisiana Association of Computer Using Educators (LACUE) State Middle School Teacher of the Year, the James O. Modisette Award for top middle school library in the state of Louisiana, and two national awards from the American Association of School Librarians: 2019 Social Media Superstar Program Pioneer and the 2019 AASL Inspire Special Event Grant.
Amanda’s goal for the future of her library is to continue finding innovative ways to keep books in kids’ hands, while continuing her work as an activist for the importance of the profession on a state and national level.
Amanda says: “School librarians have one of the most rewarding jobs in the world, with the ability to reach every child in the school. We help our students discover the perfect books, provide a safe space, and ignite creativity. Thank you to the countless school librarians who have helped me learn and grow over the course of my career. Receiving this honorable award is beyond anything I ever expected and I aim to use this platform to spread awareness at the district, state, and national level on the importance of having a certified school librarian in each school.”
Diane Mokuau, Librarian at Molokai High School, Molokai, Hawaii
Diane is a dedicated high school librarian who has been supporting her rural town for more than 20 years, where her student population is primarily Native Hawaiian. Throughout her career, Diane has focused on making her library a safe and welcoming place, where all community members, including students from other local schools and their families, can access resources for academic and social emotional learning, including e-books, audiobooks, and DVDs, while participating in special events including ohana (family) nights, author visits, poetry slams, and book fairs.
Diane’s favorite part of her job is sharing the joy of reading with students to build meaningful community connections. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Diane’s library would be filled with students and faculty, using e-readers, flip tables, and balance ball seats, often times with standing room only! Once the pandemic struck, Diane’s library was forced to close temporarily, and it now serves multiple purposes as both a library and classroom space for four teachers and their students. But Diane knows firsthand how essential collaboration and teamwork are for supporting students to empower the entire community.
Diane has received numerous recognitions for her work, including being named the first National Board Certiﬁed Teacher (NBCT) librarian in Molokai, NEA Foundation’s Hawaii Teacher of the Year Award in 2019, and a Golden Key Award recipient from the Hawaii Association of School Libraries in 2016. Diane has spearheaded a number of initiatives for her school, including the Molokai College and Career Tour Club, which was founded with a colleague to provide Molokai students, many of which are first generation college students, with opportunities to travel, tour offices, and experience arts and culture in New York City and Washington, D.C. Students must fundraise to go on the trip and share what they learned with their community upon returning home. Many students who have participated in the program have gone on to four year colleges to pursue education.
As for the future of her library, Diane dreams of giving her students a makerspace, increased access to technology, and continuing to forge partnerships with local and nationwide organizations that provide opportunities for her students to learn. Diane believes in the power of education and meaningful learning opportunities to prepare students for overcoming challenges and determining their own success.
Diane says: “I am deeply humbled and greatly honored to receive this prestigious award. Never in my wildest dreams did I think this would happen! This highlights the wonderful things that are happening in our schools and our communities and especially spotlights our tight-knit community on Molokai. I plan to share our challenges and successes and the need for every student to have certified librarians in their schools.”
The 2021 School Librarian of the Year Award
As the 2021 School Librarian of the Year Award winners, Amanda and Diane will be featured on the cover of the April 2021 issue of School Library Journal. They will also each receive a suite of awards from Scholastic, including a $2,500 cash award and $2,500 in-kind digital and/or print products for their libraries, in addition to a visit from John Schumacher, the Ambassador of School Libraries for Scholastic Book Fairs, who will gift one book to every student, and a Scholastic Book Fairs “Mr. Schu's Picks” collection of books for each school’s library. To learn more about the award, click here.
About School Library Journal
School Library Journal (SLJ), a MSI publication, is the premier publication for librarians and information specialists who work with children and teens. A source of quality journalism and reviews for more than 60 years, SLJ produces award-winning features and news coverage on: literacy, best practices, technology, education policy and other issues of interest to the school library and greater educator community. SLJ evaluates a broad range of resources, from books and digital content to databases, in 6,000+ reviews published annually.
Cover of April 2021 issue of School Library Journal