A teaching award established by Josh and Judy Weston to honor public school teachers is returning after a six-year hiatus.

The Judy Weston Awards for Inspired Teaching, administered by the Montclair Fund for Educational Excellence, will honor 16 Montclair school district teachers who stand out for their creativity, talent and support of students, according to a Montclair Fund for Educational Excellence press release. Each teacher will receive an individual cash award of $2,000.

The teachers are nominated by Montclair students and their guardians, the release says.

Nominations can be submitted as a written or as an audio or video recording, and students can submit photos of their written nomination as well. Nominations are being accepted at mfee.org through April 16. 

Josh and Judy Weston established the The Judy and Josh Weston Awards for Excellence in Teaching in 1991, and they ran until 2016. 

“When Josh came to MFEE with the idea of bringing back the awards, we were delighted,” Masiel Rodriquez-Vars, executive director of MFEE, said in the release. 

“Teachers are the single most important school-based driver of student success, so celebrating and supporting teachers is key to supporting students.”

The awards now honor Judy Weston's memory, marked by the new award title, the release says. She died in 2020. 

“Judy was the heart and soul of these awards,” Josh Weston said in the release. “She understood that great teaching is both an art and a science, and she was passionate about wanting to honor the many talented teachers in our district who exercise their craft so well on behalf of Montclair students.”

Judy Weston was a longtime Montclair resident and public school supporter, the release says. She was a mother of four Montclair High alumni “who believed that dedicated and empathetic educators are vital to helping every student achieve their full potential,” the release says. “Judy’s spirit continues to shape these awards.” 

The new awards title and the logo, designed by the Westons’ granddaughter, Siena Weston Delaney, “are a nod to her belief that the real measure of teacher excellence is inspired — and inspiring — teaching practices,” the release says. 

The selection committee, composed of 12 members, will be a combination of education professionals and community leaders, according to the release. The committee will pick at least one teacher from each school to receive an award. Two awards will go to teachers at Montclair High School and one award will be set aside for a special education teacher. 

The awards will honor “master teachers and those who are on their way to achieving that status,” the release says.

“Inspired teaching combines a range of skills across several core areas: teaching that facilitates impactful learning experiences, teaching that supports all students, and teaching that creates a caring classroom culture,” the release says. “Personal stories that show how this teacher excels and makes an impact are encouraged.”

Awardees will be notified at the end of April, and they will be presented with their awards on June 1 during a public ceremony hosted by the school district. 

In the release, schools Superintendent Jonathan Ponds thanked Weston for “recognizing that nothing is more important to the success of our students than the quality of their teachers.”

“We are very fortunate in Montclair to have dedicated and amazing teachers, and I’m grateful that the Judy Weston Award — whose past honorees include some of our current principals — is back to honor educators who have changed students’ lives,” Ponds said.