By Ron Leir
A movement is under way to memorialize a popular Belleville public school teacher who passed away recently by naming the high school’s TV/radio production studio for her. Marilyn McCabe, 63, a 40-year educator who taught mass communications and English in the Belleville school system, died March 24. A Newark native, McCabe spent 55 years in Belleville.
It was in 1980 that McCabe conceived of the idea for the studio and oversaw its creation, with an assist from her husband Jack who helped built it and became its first technician.
At the April 13 meeting of the Belleville Board of Education, trustee Peter Zangari Jr. paid tribute to the longtime instructor and came up with the proposal to dedicate the high school media center, which houses WBHS Channel 39 FIOS Comcast Cablevision station in her honor.
Schools Superintendent Richard Tomko, while new to the district, said it didn’t take much time to learn that Mc- Cabe was a school employee who commanded much respect among her peers and her legions of students.
“She was one of the lightning rods to our kids,” Tomko said. “They definitely responded to her. She touched everyone’s life.”
As one of her last official assignments, Tomko noted, “she video-taped me when I did my ‘Meet the Superintendent’ presentation.”
Ryan Sheridan, director of TV production at the high school studio, was one of the many BHS seniors who apprenticed at the studio, 15 years ago, and, then, continued his studies at Montclair State University where McCabe served as adjunct professor.
Eight years ago, Sheridan completed the circle, returning to his alma mater to work with McCabe in the studio, which bills itself as the oldest Board of Education-funded program in the state. Without her mentorship, “I wouldn’t be a teacher,” he said.
Among the more recent studio alumni who have gone on to land jobs with the communications-related industry, Sheridan noted, are Carmen Pizzano, assistant video production manager for the New York Football Giants; Ines Rosales, a traffic reporter for Fox 5 TV; and Alfredo Flores, a director/editor who has worked with various celebrities including Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande.
Other studio students are working for Disney, ABC, NBC, CNBC and CNN while others are independent producers.
Early in her professional life, Sheridan said, McCabe toyed with the idea of working behind the scenes in a production studio and interned at the same TV station in Texas where TV news journalist Barbara Walters began her career.
But, ultimately, McCabe shifted gears, opting to teach those studio skills, getting her undergraduate degree in English from Kean University and a master’s in interpersonal communications from NYU.
Having no kids of her own, “she considered her students her family,” Sheridan observed. “She had a heart of gold for every student.”
Aside from the countless hours she put in at the high school, McCabe also did side projects such as the development of an aerial video of Belleville, he said.
And she was also active in Holy Family parish affairs.
Belleville Board of Education President John Rivera said he expected the board to act shortly on adopting a resolution formally naming the high school media center in honor of McCabe.