Irvington and South Orange teachers receive donations for projects

ESSEX COUNTY, NJ — In May, SONIC Drive-In donated $1.5 million to help fund local education needs through DonorsChoose, a national nonprofit organization that allows individuals to donate directly to public school classroom requests submitted by teachers.

As part of SONIC’s ongoing Limeades for Learning initiative, the brand matched 50 percent of each donation made to teacher requests on DonorsChoose for Teacher Appreciation Day on May 3. With this donation, SONIC helped fully fund more than 9,000 projects from teachers across the country.

In Irvington, Thurgood Marshall Elementary School teacher Ashley Azurmendi received a combined donation of $50 for the project “Rise, Shine, Play and Learn” to purchase toys and activities. 

“My students are wonderful children who unfortunately missed a lot of the typical social-emotional development due to quarantine. The years of playing together and learning to self-regulate in school were missed through no fault of their own,” Azurmendi wrote on her project’s donation page. “These toys that we use every morning allow me to help the students navigate social dilemmas and learn important lessons like turn taking, patience and sharing. We use morning bins every day in order to develop fine motor skills, engage our STEAM brains and to hone our social-emotional intelligence. And occasionally we even get to play with them later in the day too!”

In Orange, Heywood Avenue Elementary School teacher Deborah Muller and Orange High School teacher Tom Sperduto received a combined donation of $234. Muller’s project is called “Clean Clothes Are Needed for Learning” and Sperduto’s is “Operation Shoe Box Organizers.”

“I have amazing students in grades 4-7 who work hard and want to do well. However, I have noticed that many of them come in day in and day out with dirty uniform clothes. Having clean clothes is so important to learning because when we have clean clothes we feel good about ourselves and have self confidence that we need to do well in school. … Many of my students live in large families where parents work long hours and may not have the time to wash clothes on a daily basis or they don’t have machines in their homes or apartments to just wash clothes at all hours of the day and night,” Muller wrote on her project’s donation page. “By giving my students new uniform pants, you are helping my students feel good about themselves so that they can focus on learning and take away the stigma of not having basic necessities.”

“My Navy JROTC cadets take great pride in their uniform shoes. Many eat lunch in my classroom and they help each other shine their shoes so that they are inspection ready. The space to safely put shoes is limited and cadets often carry their shoes home or keep them in book bags after shining them. My students need a safe, secure and organized place to put their NJROTC uniform shoes in our classroom when not being worn,” Sperduto wrote on his project’s donation page. “With your help, each one of my cadets will have their own shoe cubby area in our classroom. This will keep their shoes easily accessible, clean, and ready to be worn on uniform inspection days.”

In South Orange, South Mountain Elementary School teacher Marlee Taub received a combined donation of $50 for the project “Makey Makey.” 

“I teach fourth-grade math, science, and social studies. My students are thoughtful, innovative, creative and inquisitive. By giving them opportunities to engage in STEM activities, they are able to take their learning to the next level,” Taub wrote on her project’s donation page. “These Makey Makey kits are a great way to include all learners in the engineering and design process. They will give students an opportunity to work collaboratively and think critically. My students are highly engaged in all STEM projects they are given and this class set would continue to expand their learning. It is also a great chance for them to utilize everyday objects and recreate their uses!”