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  • Erin Madigan White

MFEE Announces Winners of the 2024 Judy Weston Awards!

Updated: 7 days ago

Sixteen teachers awarded $2,000 and will be honored at a public ceremony June 10

Sixteen Montclair Public Schools teachers have been named winners of the 2024 Judy Weston Awards for Inspired Teaching, selected from a pool of 300 total nominations. 


The awards honor both master teachers and those who are on their way to achieving that status. Inspired teaching combines a range of skills across several core areas. Ultimately, it excites students to learn, helps them feel valued, and responds to their individual needs and strengths.

The awards, established by Josh and Judy Weston in 1991 to acknowledge and celebrate MPS teachers, were given each year until 2016. After a brief hiatus, the awards returned in 2023 and are administered by the Montclair Fund for Educational Excellence (MFEE).


New this year is the Peer Inspiration Award, which is based on teacher nominations and given to a teacher who has served as an inspiration to their colleagues. The inaugural winner of this award is Susan Bleecker, a special education teacher at Watchung Elementary School.


One colleague who nominated Bleecker wrote: “[Susan] has been a mentor to new teachers countless times over.  Her mentorship never ends with those teachers still seeking her out 10 plus years later.”


Another nominator said: “Susan's passion for teaching shines through daily. Even on the toughest days she stays true to her heart and love for teaching. She makes the students feel safe, confident and loved.”


The 15 other Weston Award winners, selected from MPS parent/caregiver and student nominations, include: 

  • Jacquie Antinoro, Edgemont Montessori Elementary School

  • Dr. Ellen Cahill, Bradford Elementary School

  • Alison Campbell, Northeast Elementary School

  • Jessica Dehn, Charles H. Bullock Elementary School

  • Susan Eckert, Montclair High School

  • Christopher Golinski, Hillside Elementary School

  • Brienne Kvetkus, Montclair High School

  • Nina Lorusso, Renaissance at Rand Middle School

  • Taylor Mandel, Buzz Aldrin Middle School

  • Troy Mullins, Nishuane Elementary School

  • Anna Panchekha, Montclair High School

  • Diane Tehranian, Renaissance at Rand Middle School

  • Eric Weintraub, Watchung Elementary School

  • Eleni Zapantis, Glenfield Middle School

  • Alexander Araton, Charles H. Bullock Elementary School (Special Education Award).

Susan Bleecker, Watchung Elementary School

The awards honor the memory of Judy Weston, a long-time Montclair resident and champion of public education.


“Judy was passionate about wanting to recognize and celebrate the many talented teachers in our district who exercise their craft so well on behalf of Montclair students,” said Josh Weston.


“Our Montclair teachers are part of a legacy of educators who are committed to supporting our students, understanding their diverse cultures, and creating a high-achieving environment. I am looking forward to the ceremony and congratulating this year’s recipients,” said Superintendent Dr. Jonathan Ponds.

“It is truly inspiring to see nominations from so many people across our community. Students, caregivers and educators shared personal stories, heartfelt words of appreciation and recognition for their teachers and colleagues,” said Masiel Rodriquez-Vars, executive director of MFEE. “These educators are lighting the way for Montclair kids!”


All nominations were reviewed with the nominator’s name redacted. MFEE is not involved in the selection process. Winners were chosen by an independent committee of community leaders and education professionals, including: 

  • Marilyn Davis, Montclair State University Network for Educational Renewal

  • Rev. Dr. A. Craig Dunn, Montclair Neighborhood Development Corporation

  • Dr. Marcheta Evans, Bloomfield College of Montclair State University

  • Cheryl Hopper, Montclair Public Schools principal (retired)

  • Kathy A. Hurling, Montclair Public Schools teacher (retired)

  • Shamea Kinch, Montclair PTA Council

  • Dr. Tanya Maloney, Montclair State University

  • Marcia Marley, Succeed2gether

  • JoAnn McCullough, IMANI

  • Dr. Bree Picower, Montclair State University

  • Tanya Poteat, Montclair Child Development Center

  • Jada Roman, Montclair SEPAC (Special Education Parent Advisory Council)

  • Joy Scally, Montclair Public School teacher (retired)

  • Janet Torsney, Montclair Public Library

  • Dr. Doris Walker-Bennett, Sister to Sister

  • Naomi Wallace, YMCA of Montclair

MFEE is grateful to the selection committee for their time, expertise and thoughtful consideration of every nomination.


The community is invited and welcome to attend the recognition ceremony on Monday, June 10, which will be jointly hosted by MPS, MFEE and Josh Weston. Many of the 2023 Weston Award recipients will play a role in this special event. Please RSVP to attend.

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