Students rush in from all directions, forming a line to check out new books for their class, stand patiently in front of Room 411 as Maria Zigenis stacks up books and hands out new ones. Besides working in the book room and the library, many people may not know Zigenis. Her friendly demeanor is welcoming as she organizes and distributes books to students.
Zigenis just started working at Miramonte this year and loves her job at Miramonte. Her favorite part of working at Miramonte is being able to see the students. “I actually see kids every day because there’s always students coming in when they pick up their books and supplies…I look forward to seeing the campus full of students going to classes and lunch, conversing with each other during lunchtime, and participating in clubs and sports after school. I also plan to cheer for the Matadors in future sports events,” Zigenis said.
Zigenis, formerly a substitute teacher for the Orinda Union School District, was one of three part-time librarians at Orinda Intermediate School(OIS) last year before coming to work at Miramonte. “I just wasn’t ready to go back to teaching at any grade level, because it had been so many years and everything has changed…I wanted to find a full-time job in a school library,” Zigenis said. By working in the library and the book room, she can still see students and staff all while being a part of the school community. “Just being close and working in the library and seeing the students and staff have been great,” Zigenis said.
Born in Berkeley, Zigenis grew up in Oakland and attended Bishop O’Dowd High School. Afterward, she attended Cal State University East Bay for her undergraduate and received a Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Development before going to Holy Names University for her multiple subject credentials to teach. She later received her Special Ed Resource Credential from Chapman University. Before coming to Miramonte, Zigenis worked at OIS as one of three librarians. She was able to gain experience working there before attending Diablo Valley College to learn more about how a library works.
Other than working in the library, Zigenis enjoys baking in her free time. “I enjoy baking and cooking Greek food. Since I’m Greek American, my mother taught me several dishes that were passed down to her from my Grandmother,” Zigenis said. Zigenis generously baked some of her delicious treats for her Miramonte co-workers during winter break and Valentines Day. “I like sharing my heritage when I have a chance,” Zigenis said.
Her family of four includes her husband and two kids, Demetra Zigenis, a seventh-grader at OIS, and Vasili Zigenis, a freshman at Saint Mary’s College. Together, they love watching movies and having game nights. They adopted their six-month-old Australian Shepherd puppy, Zelda, at the beginning of quarantine, which kept them company during the pandemic, along with their ten-year-old Maltipoo, Aleko. “We thought they[Zelda and Aleko] would be good companions,” Zigenis said.
“Although I don’t know Ms. Zigenis too well, she has always been a great help when I get my books and textbooks,” sophomore Hanna Nguyen said.
Immediately after she comes home from a long day of work, she’s off to the kitchen, doing what she loves the best, cooking for her family. Even during the unprecedented times, Zigenis is still able to do what she enjoys, spending time with her family, while also being able to help students at Miramonte.