Weston Award Winners Honored

Weston Award Winners Honored
Posted on 06/11/2024
Story and photo: Erin Madigan White/MFEE

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. 

award winners

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 teachers and are grateful for their many contributions to Montclair students. Follow along on “Weston Wednesdays,” as MFEE highlights the winners on social media and 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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