Nutley Education Foundation holds annual fundraiser

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NUTLEY, NJ — After a pandemic-caused hiatus, the Nutley Education Foundation’s annual Sip, Savour & Support event made a comeback to Kingsland Manor on June 17, awarding four grants to four teachers in the Nutley School District. NEF President Lorraine Kucinski said the foundation had received many more requests from teachers but had denied those requests because the teachers had asked for classroom supplies that couldn’t be used during virtual learning. 

“Because of COVID a lot of them couldn’t be used,” Kucinski said in an interview with the Nutley Journal at the event. “We’re hoping we can award some of (those grants) next year, when they can be.” 

The foundation was still able to award four grants for teachers at three different schools. Radcliffe Elementary School special education teacher Tiffany Servidio and Nutley High School special education teacher Melissa Petrillo received funding for flexible seating; NHS-TV and media production teacher Andrew Conte and John H. Walker Middle School TV and media production teacher Linda McDonnell were able to pay for WeVideo editing software. 

“When they were home, we had no editing software,” McDonnell said in an interview with the Journal about students using their Chromebook computers during virtual learning. “I realized we would need this for next year. The kids are able to use it on their computers, and they can continue doing that at home.” 

According to Conte, this program is easier to use than other editing software, which will allow the middle school students to master it more quickly, quickly catching up to the high school students.

“We were using Premiere Pro,” Conte said in an interview with the Journal at the event. “But we were looking for a platform for the Chromebooks and needed another solution. It’s a good base to start with, and then they can move to Premiere. We were able to teach editing and could check in on their progress. I’m grateful we got the license.” 

When schools are open full time in the fall, Conte said the media department will likely keep both programs and use a combination, depending on what projects students are working on. McDonnell is looking forward to being able to start using cameras and filming again. Soon, JHWMS’ news show will return. 

“It gives them a lot of skills, like working with people,” McDonnell said. “Usually at the beginning they say, ‘I don’t want to go in front of the camera,’ but by the end of the year, kids you never would have thought would have done it are on camera. It teaches them self-confidence.” 

At Radcliffe, Servidio’s classroom had two wobble stools that her fifth- and sixth-grade special education students would argue over because they liked them so much. The stools, which allow students to move around without falling, improve focus. 

“It helps them concentrate, so I was able to get one for all of them,” Servidio said in an interview with the Journal at the event. “They need the movement for sure. It’s not something that we can put in our typical supply lists, because there are other things that we need. So I’m grateful that the NEF does this.” 

At NHS, Petrillo’s students are now able to choose the height at which they want to learn. High-top tables, thanks to the grant she was awarded, allow them to stand if it’s more comfortable, and they can sit at lower tables if they want to. The flexibility allows for mobility. 

“It allows them to sit in a space where they’re comfortable,” Petrillo said in an interview with the Journal at the event. “In 56-minute periods, I may only talk for 15 minutes. We also focus on collaborative learning, so this was a great opportunity to do that.”

Photos by Amanda Valentovic