WEST ORANGE, NJ – The Betty Maddalena Foundation, formed in 2011 following the death of beloved West Orange educator Betty Maddalena, has donated 63 Stand2Learn desks at a cost of $14,000 throughout all schools in the district.
The initiative was begun by Christine Aker, a Learning Disabilities Teacher Consultant (LDTC) in West Orange who is also actively involved in the Betty Maddalena Foundation. Aker ordered the desks, all of which have small plaques on them which read “The Betty Maddalena Foundation,” along with retired Redwood Physical Education teacher Patti Van Cauwenberge.
“The Stand2Learn desks provide students with the opportunity to choose if they would like to complete their work while standing at a desk rather than sitting,” said Aker.
“By working while standing, students can move around more freely, which in turn appears to increase engagement and motivation,” she continued.
In many classrooms that have the desks, teachers have created a rotating schedule to give all students in the class the opportunity to stand while learning by using this popular resource. In addition to the students, staff members are excited about the desks and have commented upon how the desks have really changed their classroom environment in a positive way.
Betty Maddalena was Director of Special Services for a few short years when she passed away from cancer in March of 2011, but her impact was life-changing for educators and students who knew her.
“Betty would call her brother, a dentist, to help students with dental needs when finances were an issue for the family, or always bring breakfast or lunch for students or find prom dresses,” Aker went on to say.
The Betty Maddalena Foundation slogan, formed by the first four letters of her last name, is “Make a Difference Daily (MADD), to express her generous spirit. To date, several “Smart Tables” and iPads (totaling approximately $25,000) have been donated to several special education classrooms.
Kristin Gogerty, Special Services Supervisor for K-5 and Dawn Ribeiro, Special Services Supervisor for 9-12, visited several schools on Dec. 20 to view the desks with Aker and Van Cauwenberge.
"In many classrooms that have the desks, teachers have created a rotating schedule to give all students in the class the opportunity to stand while learning by using this popular resource. In addition to the students, staff members are excited about the desks and have commented upon how the desks have really changed their classroom environment in a positive way," stated Gogerty.
“The feedback has been extremely positive and the students are eager to utilize the Stand2Learn desks,” noted Aker.
“Students and even the teachers are thrilled and the desks have already made a difference for some student's work productivity. Betty would be so happy!” she concluded.
(L-R) Michele Durante, Teacher, Washington Elementary School
-Mary Ann Maccarino, Teacher, Washington Elementary School
-Chris Aker, LDTC/Case Manager
-Dawn Ribeiro, Supervisor of Special Services, Grades 6 to 12
-Kristin Gogerty, Supervisor of Special Services, Pre-K to Grade 5
-Shari Whitman, School Social Worker/Case Manager and students.
Chris Aker and Patti Van Cauwenberge.
Students in the classroom at Washington.
Teacher Michelle Durante with a student.