Teacher’s Toolkit

Ali Schilpp, Garrett County Media Specialist

Meet media specialist Ali Schilpp, the media specialist at Northern Garrett Middle School in Garrett County. She’s also a National Board Certified teacher librarian and the 2023-24 county teacher of the year. She’s a member of the Garrett County Education Association.


The library is the largest classroom in the school and strives to be the heart of all learning. I have the great honor of teaching every student in the school, and my mission is to share the world of words, speak up for kids, and build their learning confidence. The library’s role cannot be singularly defined—it serves different purposes for each learner and is needed now more than ever, especially in schools with vulnerable populations and where students have historically had less support, digital access, and fewer books in their homes.


I’m fascinated by how digital access can expose my students to new cultures, people, and places, regardless of our remote location. The program I’ve initiated is called “LEGO Travel Buddy,” my take on “Flat Stanley.” It follows the same concept of sharing an object and visually showcasing it in different locations, experiencing the adventure along the way.

Through postcard exchang-es and video messages via Flipgrid, we’ve connected with libraries and classrooms worldwide. The “travel buddies” not only share book recommendations but also provide information about the states and countries they reside in. These interactions aim to develop digital and global citizenship skills, offering our students windows to observe diverse people and cultures and foster empathy that motivates them to explore opportunities, connections, and adventures abroad.

THE STORY OF YOUR HEART In the book The Gift of Story by John Schu, the author encourages us to consider literacy beyond its academic benefits and explore how stories can inspire us, offering new perspectives. If you want to create an instant connection with your students and colleagues, pose this question: “What is the story of your heart?” Understanding which stories deeply impact us and our students helps in building relationships. Consider displaying a sign on classroom doors inviting teachers to share the story that touches their hearts and a book they’re currently reading. This initiative promotes literacy throughout the school, fostering a culture of reading.

NATIONAL BOARD CERTIFICATION Achieving National Board Teacher Certification was a long-term professional goal of mine. I firmly believe in the process and the program’s integrity. This challenging yet rewarding experience taught me how to enhance my teaching and gain a deeper understanding of evidence and achievement impact. Under the leadership of Tatanisha “Tiki” Love and the Maryland Association of School Librarians, we are striving to support and increase the number of board-certified teacher librarians in school libraries statewide.


My favorite day in the school library is always when authors and educators visit! I can’t wait to welcome back John Schu, librarian and New York Times bestselling author. He will present The Gift of Story professional development for our 2023-24 Maryland Teachers of the Year! All 24 jurisdictions will be represented. All that book joy and educator expertise in my school library will make my book heart so happy!

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