MONTCLAIR, NJ - In this unique time, our schools need unique responses to build community and to meet emerging needs that we would not have anticipated just months ago.  School closures have thrust teachers, students, and parents into remote learning, and while many are rising to the challenge, there are critical school needs triggered by this rapid transition.  

The Montclair Fund for Educational Excellence (MFEE) recently surveyed staff to identify emerging needs and the responses reflect several concerns, especially for our most vulnerable students.  One teacher shared,  “I have students with parents who are sick, or with family responsibilities, or with parents who can’t help them with their work. Some of our students are falling through the cracks.” 

Others voiced the need for learning supplies for students who lack these at home and many teachers highlighted the need for training and support for digital learning - both for staff and parents. Boosting social and emotional resources for students, parents, and teachers was also high on the list of needs.

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MFEE is launching several initiatives to address these needs, including the new Peer-led Educational Engagement Program - PEEPs - that matches MHS Peer Leaders with middle school and high school students who are struggling with distance learning.  

To raise funds for this work, MFEE recruited teens to craft a fundraiser that would engage the entire family.  Since many families in quarantine were having fun learning dances on the TikTok platform, MHS Senior Claire Daddabbo (@I_am_a_pizza) created a 29-second dance and challenged other families to join in to support the schools!  

Claire, who is TikTok famous herself with over 800,000 followers, is a member of BAD Dancers Only, a group of 100 TikTok creators who have pledged to combat depression.  “When MFEE asked us to create a dance for the challenge, I thought it was a great chance to get our whole family, including my brother who never participates in anything TikTok, to join!  We were happy to support our schools in these tough times.”

Claire’s dance has caught on, with everyone from teachers to parents to teens - and even 4-year-olds performing the dance and raising much-needed funds.  The current front-runner is MHS Biology teacher, Susan Eckert, who was most impressed by her husband’s willingness to jump into the fun, even though he had denied his family’s previous repeated requests to TikTok dance with them. “He is such an advocate for our schools that he immediately said yes, and he actually had a lot of fun learning the dance with us. Don’t expect a repeat performance though.”

Perhaps the most impressive competitors to date are a group of four siblings who took it upon themselves to enter the competition to support their schools.  “I couldn’t believe that they had done this on their own,” says mom, Melissa Groffman.  “I am proud of them for taking the initiative to give back to their community, and I’m impressed by their dancing!”

The dancers are also providing some much-needed positivity during these challenging times.  “This TikTok contest is saving me,” shared one parent in an email to MFEE. “Whenever I get sad, I just watch them all again.”

There’s still time to join the fun and/or donate to our teams to raise critical funds for our schools!  Visit mfee.org for information on how to register and donate to the competitors. The fundraiser runs through May 29th. Watch this video to learn more about TikTok Together and the need for these funds.

 

About the Montclair Fund for Educational Excellence 

The Montclair Fund for Educational Excellence (MFEE) is a non-profit local education fund founded in 1991 to generate private funding and community support for Montclair Public Schools and to enhance the educational experience of all of Montclair’s public school students.  To learn more visit www.mfee.org or call us at 973.699.3599.