TEACHER OF THE YEAR, 42-YEAR HOUSING AUTHORITY DIRECTOR, 20-YEAR CHIEF OF FOOD PANTRY, AND EXEMPLARY CCM PROFESSOR
The Morris County Board of Freeholders had the honor of awarding county resolutions this morning to four exceptional county residents, in the fields of teaching, housing and nonprofit giving, who have served as role models in their respective communities.
The recipients were:
- Morris County Housing Authority Executive Director Roberta Strater of Rockaway Township, who is retiring after 42 years;
- Morris County Interfaith Food Pantry Executive Director Rosemary Gilmartin of Morris Township, who is retiring after 20 years;
- State Teacher of the Year Jennifer Skomial, of Roxbury, who teaches at the Morris County School of Technology’s Academy for Education and Learning;
- County College of Morris Professor and Department Head Venancio “Venny’’ Fuentes, of Montville, recipient of the Association of Community College Trustees’ 2018 Northeast Region Faculty Leadership Award.
“We are privileged to have such exceptional people working and teaching in our county,’’ said Freeholder Director Doug Cabana. “In their respective roles, they have made a great differences in the lives of our county residents, to people in need of affordable housing or in need of meals for their families, to students who have been challenged and inspired to aim much higher in their lives.’’
Here is a snapshot of each recipient:
Roberta Strater is retiring on Dec. 31 after serving for 42 years as Executive Director of the Morris County Housing Authority.
The Rockaway Township resident has used her extensive knowledge and expertise in the planning, development, and management of affordable housing in Morris County, with an emphasis on resident services and empowerment of some of the county’s neediest families, for more than four decades.
Under her leadership, the Housing Authority developed the first Congregate Living Facility for low-income, frail elderly residents; and established the first county home ownership program that used voucher payments as mortgage payments.
Strater also formed the Morris County Affordable Housing Corporation in 1995 to provide home ownership opportunities for low-and-moderate-income residents by rehabilitating and/or constructing affordable for-sale units; and created the Family Self-Sufficiency program to guide residents towards home ownership.
Rosemary Gilmartin is retiring after 20 years as Executive Director of the Morris County Interfaith Food Pantry.
The Morris Township resident was recruited in 1998 from a volunteer role to be the first Executive Director of the Pantry and has used her expertise to provide access to food to all Morris County residents, while also educating county residents about the issues of hunger.
In 2017 alone, the pantry distributed more than 1.1 million pounds of food, including nearly 1 million meals and 200,000 pounds of produce to residents who needed help to put meals on their families’ tables.
Under Gilmartin’s leadership, the food pantry added many new programs, including the Healthy Choices Program Mobile Pantry, the Kitchen 2 Table program, Free Farmers Markets, Family Choice Program and Emergency Food Assistance. It also added food distribution on weekends and evenings, while dramatically improving the quality of food, emphasizing fresh produce, dairy and meat
In addition, Gilmartin and her staff led the pantry through four moves over 20 years, leveraging a successful capital campaign to build a new warehouse and distribution center in a valuable public-private partnership with Morris County.
Jennifer Skomial is the New Jersey’s Teacher of the Year for 2018-19, as recognized by the New Jersey State Department of Education, and also was named Morris County Teacher of the Year.
Jennifer, who lives in Roxbury, is a teacher at Morris County School of Technology’s Academy for Education and Learning at in Denville, where she has worked for 10 years, and for the last five of those years has taught a four-year program for students interested in future careers in education.
Her leadership as a Career and Technical Education Teacher has had a positive impact not only on her own students but also on the entire school community in Morris County, as she has reached out beyond school walls to develop strong partnerships with many other local school districts.
Skomial has worked to encourage students to go into the field that she holds so dear, while also mentoring new teachers, establishing professional learning communities, providing professional development opportunities to colleagues, and serving on several district and school-wide committees.
In her role as State Teacher of the Year, she will work closely with the New Jersey Department of Education and she will travel to Washington D.C. to meet other state teachers of the year and the President of the United States.
Venancio “Venny’’ Fuentes has excelled as an educator at County College of Morris, where his work has earned him the Association of Community College Trustees’ 2018 Northeast Region Faculty Leadership Award.
In addition to teaching at CCM for some 25 years, the Montville resident also serves as the chair of the Department of Engineering Technologies and Engineer Science, and the Department of Criminal Justice.
His efforts have included the implementation of an important share-time Engineering Design and Advanced Manufacturing (EDAM) program with the Morris County Vocational School at CCM, fostering the engineering and advanced manufacturing interests of high school students.
Fuentes, who once designed navigation systems for the U.S. Navy and NASA Space Shuttle program, has overseen the High School United with NASA to Create Hardware for the International Space Station Program at CCM. In that program, EDAM students work on projects that have been requested by NASA astronauts, making CCM the first college in the nation to become a participant in that program.