Meet Antoinett Hall, 2023 Essex County Educational Support Professional of the Year
When Antoinett Hall was 12 years old, she began her career as an activist.
“I used to come home after school, and I couldn’t find anything to do,” Hall remembers. “There weren’t any activities for people my age, so I went to the pastor at the church down the street from our house and asked him if I could have a Friday night youth club. He gave me a notepad and pen and said that if I could get everyone in the neighborhood to sign, I could have the club.”
Hall went door to door in her neighborhood and got the necessary signatures, to the pastor’s amazement.
“Most of the people in the youth club were older than I was,” Hall says. “We visited elderly people, nursing homes, children in foster care and children with special needs who needed homes. One boy in particular touched my heart and I asked to work with him. Working with him taught me about children with special needs and made me want to be in schools more.”
Hall pursued her education, earning two bachelor’s degrees, in science and psychology, from Bloomfield College. She also trained as a nurse at Kaiser College and Essex County College. After her five sons, Daniel, Je’von, Sayeed, Jahiem and Marley, started school, Hall began to volunteer in their classes.
A career in Orange
Hall volunteered so much time in the schools that the principal said, “You’re here every day. Are you sure you don’t want to work here?”
Hall agreed and felt most at home working with students with special needs. As a one-on-one aide, currently at Park Avenue Elementary School, she develops close relationships with the children she works with, and their families. At the same time, Hall’s incredible energy led her to become more involved in her union.
“I started working in the schools, and I loved it,” Hall says. “Being part of NJEA and the Orange Education Association (OEA) was the icing on the cake. It’s a vast operation and there are so many different areas. I went from being a member to being the Pride and FAST chair. When I write these grants and get opportunities for our students and their families, I take great pride in the fact that we are getting people into the schools who have never participated before.”
Among the many activities Hall has organized are a Black Lives Matter project that brought together NJEA President Sean M. Spiller, the mayor of Orange and other officials. She has a close partnership with the police chief of Orange and works to develop programs to break down the barrier between law enforcement and students.
In 2022, Hall created a community event that brought the Harlem Wizards to Orange for a basketball game that got city officials and the school district involved.
During the pandemic, Hall was tireless in her efforts to support her community and first responders. Thanks to a grant she wrote, funded by NJEA, the OEA provided 750 meals for St. Barnabas Hospital staff. She replicated the program at East Orange Hospital. She also led efforts to provide food to the fire department, police department, nursing homes and others. Because of her collaboration with the hospitals, she was able to coordinate learning opportunities for students who are interested in pursuing a career in medicine.
Hall also is the Democratic Committee Chair. She is a member of the City of Orange Budget Committee and the Zoning Board of Adjustments. She previously served on the Orange Rent Leveling Committee.
An award-winning leader
Hall has received many accolades and honors, including being named one of the Top 100 Women of Power and Progress by TAPinto East Orange/Orange. She also received the Mayor’s Women of Excellence Award and a proclamation from the Essex County Board of County Commissioners.
Being honored as the 2023 Essex County Educational Support Professional of the Year is a distinction that Hall greatly appreciates.
“Being named the Essex County Educational Support Professional of the Year is an honor that I do not take lightly,” Hall says. “I feel my hard work has paid off and that I’m taking my involvement to another level. I’m so proud to be among all the previous honorees. It lets me know that all my work, and all the things that I’ve done have not gone unnoticed.”