Achieve Foundation awards $43,623 in educator grants districtwide

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

MAPLEWOOD, NJ — The Achieve Foundation has awarded $43,623 in grants to educators in the South Orange–Maplewood School District. 

The 36 grants, designed to be used for professional development, software, materials and programs, ran the gamut of topics, proving that the educators in the SOMSD are as individual and creative as the grants themselves. Themes emerged, including materials to aid in talking about race, history and lived experience; books to diversify the collections children have available to them; technology to help students and teachers connect and achieve across miles and laptops; and resources to help students cope with the stress of life during the pandemic. 

“Our grants committee was really impressed by the thoughtful and creative requests received back in June, and wish we could fund each and every project,” Achieve Executive Director Eileen Collins Neri said. “With distance learning in place and so many new challenges to solve, Achieve is thrilled to award 36 grants that address immediate needs during online learning and set students up for success when they return to school in person. We appreciate all the amazing and innovative educators who applied this year!”

This year’s grant recipients are:

  • From Clinton Elementary School: Jennifer Latimer for “Keeping it Real, Interactive E-books with Natural Voice and Fluency.” 
  • From Jefferson Elementary School: Virginia Osewalt and Barbara Tsioni for “iSPIRE Online for Distance or In-Class Learning.”
  • From Seth Boyden School: Maggie Tuohy for “From Garbage to Garden”; Shella Mesidor-Villard for “Equity Institute: Advancing Racial Equity in Education Workshop”; Dianne Canzonieri and Elana Ris for “Magnificent Mathematicians”; Marissa DeMartino for “Fun with Phonics”; Sarah Haldeman for “Multicultural Literature for Social Emotional Learning and Anti-Bias Discourse”; Susan Brody for “Book Clubs Need Better Books”; Sarah Fakhoury and Jesse Hein for “Let’s Talk About Race”; and two grants to Erica Dulny for “High Interest, Low Level Books” and “Serious About Series!”
  • From South Mountain and Seth Boyden schools: Catherine Campbell and Janine Poutre for “Audible Battle of the Books.”
  • From Tuscan Elementary School: Deirdre Dore for “Encouraging, Supporting and Facilitating Conversation in a Diverse Classroom”; Claire Van Tine for “Reflections of My Class”; and two grants to Amy Popp for “ROAR Books to Support Equality for All” and “Virtual Author Visits.”
  • From Maplewood Middle School: Amy Pitucco for “Self Care Everywhere”; Evyn Degnan for “WeVideo for MMS”; Degnan, Rob Cohen, Monica Johnson and Ryan O’Dell for “Soundtrap” software; Marc Kessler for “Mathalicious”; Ray Mantes for “Teaching for Equity and Justice”; Avis Gibbons-Williams for “Building Spanish Language Proficiency through Literacy”; Caroline Ogando for upgrading the dance room, club and dance concert space; and two grants to Debra Silva for “Image Grammar” and “MMS Rocks.”
  • From South Orange Middle School: Kara Laviola for tablets for the Drama Department; Caitlin Dennehy and Hannah Govrin for “Mindful Behavior Support”; Juliann DiPietro for “The Reading Room”; and Maria Shoats for “Level Literacy Intervention System Multi-Day Institute Training.”
  • From South Orange and Maplewood middle schools: Diane Leick for “Being the Best Me!” speech.
  • From Columbia High School: Peter Bauer for “Getting Smart About Practicing” software, funded through the Vanessa Pollock Music Initiative; Marilu Gregory and Laura Prato for “Mindfulness Support”; Mark Richman for his “Stand-Up Math” grant; James Nugent for “Trout in the Classroom,” adjusted for distance learning; Bianca Silver to fund distance-learning–appropriate experiment materials for her senior science research class; and Michael Steiner to provide 40 “Writing Tablets for Math/Science Instruction” for online teaching in the STEM Department.

The grants were made possible by the generous support and donations from the South Orange–Maplewood community and the fundraising efforts by the Achieve Foundation. To donate, join or learn more about the Achieve Foundation, visit  

Photos Courtesy of Jennifer Grady