By ERIN ROLL
roll@montclairlocal.news

Do you have a favorite teacher you’d like to give a shout-out to? Are you looking for an opportunity to get a group of people together for ice cream, drinks or a barbecue? Are you keen on raising money to use in the schools?

If so, the Montclair Fund for Educational Excellence would like to hear from you.

The MFEE is preparing for its 21st annual Toast to the Teachers event, a series of family-hosted parties taking place from May 25 to June 22.

The annual parties are a fundraiser for the MFEE’s “educational excellence” grants program.

As of Friday, about 16 families had signed up to host parties, with another 10 pending. On average, Rodriquez-Vars says, anywhere between 90 and 100 families volunteer to become party hosts during the toast season. “So this is a very small fraction of what we think we’ll end up with.”

There have been ice cream sundae parties, backyard picnics, pool parties and grownups-only cocktail parties.

The host and the honored teacher are allowed to choose the party theme, Rodriquez-Vars says. Some teachers and hosts want parties that are suitable for the whole family, while others would like adults-only gatherings.

The MFEE receives 200 grant applications a year. For the educational excellence grants, the MFEE sends out the request for proposals to teachers in June, and decides what grants to award later in the fall.

Some of the recent items that received funding from the MFEE include buying alternative seating — yoga balls, standing desks, and so forth — and fidget tools for elementary school classrooms, and schoolwide grants to buy science materials for the middle schools. “The district definitely provides funding, but hands-on science can be expensive.”

Teachers are given a lot of leeway about the projects for which they can apply for funding, but there are a few guidelines. For example, the MFEE encourages teachers to apply for funding for materials and supplies that won’t get quickly used up.

Party hosts are asked to send some information about the event to the MFEE, and the MFEE creates a “landing page” on its website for party guests to RSVP to.

“They seem really jazzed about contributing to the effort to fund teacher proposals,” Rodriquez-Vars said. “They’re not just going to a fun party. They’re really contributing to educational enhancement in our district.”

For more information, email info@mfee.org or call 973-509-4021.