To say that Manny ’61 and Meg Scrofani love the teaching profession is an understatement. As lifelong educators, they poured their heart and soul into it, and they haven’t missed a beat.
Emanuel “Manny” Scrofani received his bachelor’s degree in Business Education and was a 4-year starter, co-captain and member of Montclair’s 1960 undefeated football team. He served as a teacher in New Jersey and California, principal in several California schools as well as superintendent of schools in Napa and Sonoma. He later became an associate professor of Organizational Leadership at the University of La Verne in Southern California, assistant executive director for the California School Boards Association and director of staff development for the State of California. He is a member of Montclair’s College of Education and Human Services Advisory Board and was recognized as the College’s Distinguished Alumnus in 2018. In her career, Margaret “Meg” Scrofani, a graduate of the University of California Berkeley, spent 40 years as a teacher and school principal. Her career also included work at the California State Department of Education in the Program Review Unit responsible for evaluating schools in the State. Manny and Meg had combined careers of 83 years of dedication to education.
While the two have retired from their fulfilling careers, they are still deeply committed to teaching and are advancing today’s teachers through their generous support of Montclair’s education program.
“Montclair is way out front in terms of its creativity in helping teachers succeed,” says Manny. “They understand kids, they understand learning theory and they understand what teachers will need in order to survive in this complex society.”
Their investment in Montclair’s teaching excellence began with providing scholarship support for Montclair students in their student teaching internship year, realizing the barrier that unpaid internships can pose for students of varied socioeconomic backgrounds.
“If I didn’t have the scholarship support that the Scrofanis made possible during my student teaching, I wouldn’t have been able to finish my degree,” says Brandon Vargas ’21, who now teaches fifth grade Math in Teaneck. “I had been so stressed with the pandemic and virtual student teaching… I had to quit one of my part-time jobs in order to student teach; it was a relief to receive financial assistance at that pivotal time.”
All In for Excellence
Responding to evolving needs and eager to advance innovative teacher preparation practices, the Scrofanis have pivoted their support to the University’s New Teacher Induction Program. The program is a comprehensive system of support provided to beginning teachers in their first three years in the classroom. These teachers have committed to teach in high-needs schools, and in exchange receive support that includes coaching and mentoring, targeted professional development, and strategic networking.
“We are impressed with Montclair’s program because of the support system it provides, and the pedagogy behind it,” says Meg. “We are grateful we can support this cutting-edge approach to assist exemplary and passionate teachers who are committed to advancing social justice and serving high-need communities.”
“Induction is a ‘bridge’ that connects educational theory to practice. Our goal is to provide teachers with the context-specific resources, tools, and strategies they need to implement the ideas and theories they learned while students at Montclair State,” explains Rhena Jasey-Goodman, induction coordinator at Montclair’s Center of Pedagogy. “Through the New Teacher Induction Program, we are providing tailored support based on the needs of the students, teachers, schools and district.”
From many accounts, the program is succeeding. According to the Center for Research and Evaluation on Education and Human Services (CREEHS), which has evaluated the work of the New Teacher Induction Program since 2011, 95% of the teachers who participated in the program remained in education for three years or more; and 78% remained in education for five years or more.
“Teaching can be an isolating profession,” says Jennifer Robinson, executive director of the Center of Pedagogy. “It is important to stay connected in your work as a teacher…our program builds community and is a way for our graduates to stay connected to the University and to build networks and skills that will help them throughout their careers as teachers in New Jersey.”
Support from donors like the Scrofanis supplements the state, federal and grant support the program receives. Montclair’s nationally and internationally recognized program is making a difference for New Jersey’s teachers and embodies the University’s commitment to recruit and prepare teachers of color, provide crucial support in the early years of teaching, and be a force for good in communities.
“Montclair’s Teacher Education Program is preparing the very best teachers and educational leaders,” says Katrina Bulkley, acting dean of the College of Education and Human Services. “Our program has been nationally accredited since 1954 and we continue to evolve to prepare future teachers with the skills and mindsets needed for exceptional student learning. We are particularly proud of how we support graduates who teach in high-need schools.”
“Montclair had that exact niche that I was looking for in a teaching program… and taught me how to include diversity and science in a classroom,” says Deliris Diaz ’19 MAT, a graduate of the Newark Montclair Urban Teacher Residency program. Diaz was a standout in science and valedictorian at East Side High School in Newark, where she returned and now serves as a fourth-year physics teacher.
“I have benefited from the Scrofanis’ investment in the induction program, and I’m grateful,” says Diaz. “Although I had all this experience of growing up in Newark, I too still struggled as a beginning teacher. Just because I’m from the community doesn’t mean that I have all I need to understand students’ needs and create the optimal learning experience.”
Diaz feels the resources and coaching have contributed to her teaching effectiveness. “No matter what anyone’s first-year goals are, they need that additional support.”
“Induction coaching is an important part of the new teachers’ development,” explains Angela Piombo, who spent her career teaching in Newark Public Schools and now shares her expertise as a coach in Montclair’s program. “We help them understand how to build a culturally responsive classroom, to realize what it feels like to have a Newark teacher identity, and to work on their own individual goals.”
“There’s a continuum of connection and support in this program,” she explains in describing the cohesive approach and long-standing partnership between Montclair State University and Newark Public Schools. “As coaches, we love being part of the classroom community… we feel valued in the process of providing the best education to the children and supporting the teachers,” says Piombo.
“And Meg and Manny are part of the family,” she adds, acknowledging the direct impact the Scrofanis have had in making it possible for students to become teachers, helping them in their critical first year and providing ongoing support for their success along the way.
“We are so proud of Montclair’s program and so proud to be able to support it and show our love for teachers,” says Meg. “I think this program is the only one like it in the country…it’s incredible.”
A sentiment echoed by Manny: “This is the program that we want to put our energy and our future in … It has been a blessing for us to realize how the induction program is helping wonderful teachers, ensuring that they are well coached and able to share what’s in their hearts.”
Story by Director of Development Communications Laura Iandiorio.