SOMSD teachers receive scholarships from Achieve for their professional development – Essex News Daily

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MAPLEWOOD/SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — For Tuscan elementary school media specialist Amy Popp, receiving an Achieve Foundation scholarship in March has special meaning. She is one of five educators to receive Michelle T. Riecke scholarships totaling $5,073 to pursue professional development programs this summer.

Popp will attend the American Library Association’s week-long annual conference in Washington, DC in late June. She is a second-generation educator in the South Orange–Maplewood School District, predeceased by her mother, Bernice Popp, a beloved teacher who taught the children of Michelle “Shelley” Traina Riecke, for whom the scholarship is named.

“My mother deeply admired Shelley’s commitment to education and learning,” said Amy Popp. “With the funds from this scholarship, I hope to honor Shelley by deepening my commitment to education and sharing the latest research, ideas, and resources with my colleagues at SOMSD and students at the Tuscan School.”

Riecke Scholars dedicate part of their summer vacation to professional development. The other 2022 Riecke Fellows are Caitlin Dennehy, a special education teacher at South Orange Middle School, who will study mindfulness and education at the Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, NY; Karissa Handler, a Columbia High School guidance counselor, who will be looking for advanced skills to help students through the college application process at Teachers College, Columbia University; Matthew Rice, a CHS biology professor, who will prepare to train other CHS teachers to support trans and non-binary students in a virtual course offered by the Transgender Training Institute; and Seth Boyden, Math Intervention Specialist, Elana Ris, who will seek to deepen her knowledge in diagnosing and advancing student understanding and numeracy development through a virtual course on Math’s Add+VantageMR Recovery.

Including this year’s awards, the Riecke Scholarship has provided $92,778 to 73 educators from all 10 SOMSD schools since its inception in memory of Riecke, a former school board chair, in 2004. Riecke’s two daughters now participate in its Nominations Review Committee, which is headed by President Anne Wessel. The goal of the program is to support exceptional teaching by allowing educators to undertake continuing education in their field during the summer and by encouraging them to share the new knowledge they acquire with their colleagues in the district afterwards. To learn more, visit

Photos courtesy of Eileen Neri

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