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  • Erin Madigan White

Montclair Celebrates ‘Inspired’ Weston Winners

2024 Weston Award Winners with Josh Weston (center) and MFEE Executive Director Masiel Rodriquez-Vars (right).

More than 135 members of the Montclair Public Schools community celebrated the 16 winners of the 2024 Judy Weston Awards for Inspired Teaching on Monday evening at the Montclair Public Library. 


The winning educators, who were selected from a pool of 300 total nominations, were recognized during the ceremony. Excerpts were read aloud from their nomination letters detailing why they are inspired teachers. 


The audience laughed, cheered and teared-up hearing the personal stories and heartfelt words of appreciation written by MPS students, caregivers and staff. Award presenters included education professionals and members of the independent selection committee, as well as many 2023 Weston Award Winners. 


These are just a few examples of the accolades shared: 


One nominator called Montclair High School AP biology teacher Susan Eckert, a “one-of-a-kind, life-changing teacher.” 


A nomination for Nishuane Kindergarten teacher Troy Mullins said: “I could write a book about my love for Mr. Mullins… I only wish the entire district knew what an amazing teacher and role model he is to these children.” 


A parent shared that Charles H. Bullock special education teacher Alexander Araton “completely changed the trajectory of our son's academic life (and honestly, probably his entire life).”


Nominators called Buzz Aldrin band director Taylor Mandel “a wizard,” and praised his dedication, enthusiasm and ability to “make every student feel like a rock star.”  


And MPS colleagues called Susan Bleecker, the inaugural winner of the Peer Inspiration Award, an excellent mentor. Among the reasons they admire her: “Susan never gives up on any child.” 


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). 


“Teachers deserve all the acclaim we can give them,” Josh Weston said. 


MPS Superintendent Dr. Jonathan Ponds attended the ceremony and congratulated all the winners. 


Masiel Rodriquez-Vars, executive director of MFEE, shared a closing message for the honored teachers: "We applaud your dedication and efforts to fuel excellence in public education. Thank you for lighting the way for Montclair kids, and thank you for inspiring us all."  

The winners each received an award certificate, a $2,000 cash prize generously provided by the Weston family, and an MFEE gift bag with a candle donated by Rose + Co., a local company launched by an MPS student.


Special thanks to the Montclair Public Library for donating their space to host the event, and to Montclair High School's "Passing Notes" acapella group for performing before the ceremony. 


MFEE, MPS and the Weston family congratulate these wonderful teachers and are grateful for their many contributions to Montclair students. To learn more, follow along on “Weston Wednesdays,” as MFEE highlights each of the winners on our blog.


2024 Weston Award Winners 


Susan Bleecker, Watchung Elementary School (Peer Inspiration)

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

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

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