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Connie White Library Media Center Dedicated at Kelly Elementary School with Astronaut Mark Kelly and Representative Gabby Giffords

WEST ORANGE, NJ – It’s not every day that a teacher has a library named after her, and it certainly isn’t every day that an astronaut and a congresswoman are there to help cut the ribbon. But on Nov. 15, that is just what happened when Kelly Elementary School dedicated the new Connie White Library Media Center with Captain Mark Kelly and former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords.


“When I received word that one of her former students wanted to honor her by donating money to renovate our Library Media Center and dedicate the project to her I was thrilled to be a part of it,” began Kelly Principal Dr. Joanne Pollara as she welcomed everyone.


“It reminded me that teachers at their best truly inspire dreams, shape lives and give us hope for the future. Connie, your inspiration has continued far beyond your years in the classroom,” she noted. 


In attendance at the dedication were Kelly, Giffords, Connie White herself, Mayor Robert Parisi, Acting Superintendent Eveny de Mendez, Board member Ken Alper, and family and friends of Ms. White. Former students, including Kelly, traveled across the country to be there for the library opening, lauding the impact she made in their lives as second-grade students. Pleasantdale School was renamed Kelly Elementary School in April, 2018 in honor of West Orange astronauts Mark and Scott Kelly, who both attended the school.


The library was made possible with a $250,000 gift from an anonymous donor that was a former student of Ms. White’s. The center features a makerspace, rolling book racks, carpeting, reading areas, new furniture, and three 3-D printers.


“When people ask me how I’m doing, I tell them ‘more than wonderful,” White enthused, “and today that could not be more true.”


Students in fifth grade performed several musical numbers, ending with the Kelly School Song. The Kelly Social Media Student Ambassadors, the first in the West Orange School District, led everyone to the Center for the ribbon cutting and filmed a brief video byte.


“To be successful, there are four pillars on which you can build: Dedication, Devotion, Discipline and Determination,” continued Dr. Pollara.


“Connie White’s 44 years in education embodied each of these qualities. Connie taught at Pleasantdale School, in first grade for 10 years and then in second grade for 34 years. Connie demonstrated qualities that set her on a path destined for leadership. Connie was an innovative educator who inspired her students each and every day. She always took a deep interest in her students on a personal level and nurtured not only their minds but their souls and hearts. Her classroom was a place that encouraged kindness and caring. Giving her students confidence in themselves was paramount for Connie. During her tenure in West Orange she worked tirelessly to ensure that all students rose to meet the challenges of their future, whether their journey took them to business, finance, education, or outer space! I was honored to be a colleague of hers here at the former Pleasantdale School and like so many others, learned from her. . Connie, your inspiration has continued far beyond your years in the classroom. You continue to touch our children!” Dr. Pollara concluded.


See the photos from the dedication of the Connie White Library Media Center here.


CWLMC Dedication

 Connie White cuts the ribbon on the LMC with Rep. Gabby Giffords and Captain Mark Kelly.

 CWLMC Dedication

 Former student of Connie White, Connie White, Dr. Joanne Pollara, and Captain Mark Kelly with Kelly Social Media Ambassadors.


Cynthia Cumming
Nov. 18, 2018