Achieve Announces 2024 Riecke Fellowships Providing Funding for Professional Development Programs

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From The Achieve Foundation of South Orange & Maplewood:

Staff members from five South Orange & Maplewood School District (SOMSD) schools will devote time this summer to expanding and enriching their knowledge and skills at advanced academic training programs offered by esteemed institutions in locations across the country. Totaling over $14,000, these professional development experiences will be funded through Achieve’s Riecke Teaching Fellowships. Proposals are judged on their potential to introduce innovative strategies to  the District’s classrooms and to support equitable student learning in line with the District’s educational goals. A key fellowship component is participants’ subsequent sharing of their newly-acquired skills with their colleagues in the district.

SEEDS: Tawauna Stukes presents check to Kate Facto

At the elementary school level, Clinton Elementary School Special Education Teacher Kate Facto will become the latest SOMA staff member to attend the intensive National SEED New Leaders Training in eastern Massachusetts. SEED promotes multiculturalism and social justice by engaging educators, parents, community leaders and professionals in various fields to collaborate in learning and dialogue culminating in relevant systemic analysis and change. Facto will prepare to lead similar sessions in SOMSD that will support the District’s goal of creating a more equitable and empathic learning environment.

Big Sky: Megan Hellthaler and Erin Bolstad

Megan Hellthaler and Erin Bolstad, reading specialists at Marshall Elementary School, will head west to Bozeman, MT to the Big Sky Literacy Summit to study teaching strategies based on the Science of Reading. This approach incorporates interdisciplinary perspectives on teaching, including long-term classroom experience, research, and practical implementation of new techniques to inform culturally responsive teaching and collaborative learning communities.

Lieck: Achieve Executive Director Eileen Collins Neri, Diane Lieck, Riecke Committee Chair Tawauna Stukes

Middle school Speech Teacher Diane Leick requested funds for an in-depth online workshop that will reinforce the skills she gained last year at a Lindamood-Bell Visualizing and Verbalizing seminar. This approach incorporates student choice in developing individualized language skills acquisition plans, supporting student engagement and ownership early in the learning process.

SOMS: Achieve’s Tawauna Stukes with teachers Amy Rowe, Talaya Hampton, Kyndell Pierce-Tuttle

A team of South Orange Middle School classroom teachers, Amy Rowe, Kyndell Pierce-Tuttle and Talaya Hampton will attend the Summer Writing Institute for Racial Equality in Literacy in Washington, D.C. There, social justice educators will gather to explore the role of writing as a critical tool for students to affirm their identities and develop their authentic voices. To that end, our teachers will learn to facilitate culturally responsive writing workshops.

J McDowell: Riecke Committee Chair Tawauna Stukes, Jennifer McDowell, Riecke Committee Member Anne Wessel

Aware that a new state law will require all high school seniors to apply for financial aid as a graduation requirement, CHS Guidance Counselor Jennifer McDowell saw the need and opportunity to gain an in-depth understanding of the full range of funding options available to college applicants. She hopes to be an advocate for families to learn about sources of aid to help pay for an education at institutions where students may have been accepted, but that are unaffordable to them, an issue which she observes, is a frequent deterrent to college entrance. McDowell will pursue her goals at the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators Conference in Milwaukee, WI. Her fellowship will support the District’s Access & Equity goal by supporting student development of post high school plans.

The Michelle T. Riecke Teaching Fellowship was established with the Achieve Foundation in 2004 in memory of a beloved Board of Education President who died at age 39 following a 3-year battle with cancer. The fellowship is rooted in Shelley’s belief that encouraging educators to undertake continuing education in best practices and sharing it with their colleagues is a key factor in fostering outstanding education.

Achieve Board Member and Riecke Committee chair Tawauna Stukes said, “We are thrilled to fund these opportunities that nourish our wonderful faculty members’ professional passions.”

“I want to congratulate all our District educators who have been awarded a Rieke Fellowship, and look forward to their putting their knowledge into practice next year,” said Dr. Kevin F. Gilbert, SOMSD Acting Superintendent. “On behalf of the District, I am very grateful for our partnership with the Achieve Foundation and the opportunities they provide for our educators to become better professionals.”

To date, Achieve’s Riecke Fellowship program has provided $116,448 to 88 educators across all ten SOMSD schools. We are grateful for additional funds from the Morrow Fund for Access & Equity and the Achieve Board that supplemented this year’s Riecke grants and enabled the foundation to fully fund these five requests. We also congratulate this year’s Riecke Fellows and commend them on the commitment to their craft that inspired them to dedicate a portion of their summer break to professional development. Like their predecessors, the 2024 fellows will bring back advancements that will benefit the South Orange-Maplewood School community in the coming year and beyond.


The Achieve Foundation of South Orange & Maplewood is a registered 501(c)3 organization that promotes high-quality education that prepares South Orange-Maplewood School District students for the future. We support our students, families and educators by addressing inequities, inspiring innovation and fostering community. Since 1999, Achieve has invested over $4.5 million for programs that support public education in our two towns. To learn more, please visit


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