Edward Morante had a tough time as a child in school. He was bullied, he struggled in his classes, and he felt ignored by his teachers. The result: He dropped out of high school. 

But with a lot of hard work, Morante climbed back. He earned his high school diploma, and then an associate degree at community college. 

In fall 2017, he came to UMass Lowell as one of the first students in the newly revived undergraduate education program, which offers dual certification in elementary education and teaching children with moderate disabilities from pre-K through eighth grade.

“I want to become a teacher because I want kids to succeed and enjoy life,” says Morante. “I want to help kids who may have felt like I did.”

As a junior, he switched his major to English after deciding that he wants to teach high school English. He plans to complete a master’s degree in education at UML during his first five years of teaching.

Morante isn’t waiting for graduation to apply his teaching skills, though. When he started working at Digital Federal Credit Union (DCU), he became friends with fellow employee Benjamin McEvoy, a UML business major who is developing a modified baseball game called “Benji Ball” that can be used for inclusive sports. 

McEvoy asked Morante to join his DifferenceMaker team and apply his knowledge about education and disabilities to refining the Benji Ball concept. Together, they won the top prize of $6,000 in the spring 2019 DifferenceMaker Idea Challenge.

Since then, they’ve presented Benji Ball at other innovation competitions, and now they’re narrowing down possible manufacturers that can make the eight-sided ball used in the game. 

Then School of Education Dean Eleanor Abrams also invited Morante to demonstrate Benji Ball at a high tea for alumni. As a result, Thomas Malone '71, '78, '94 invited Morante and McEvoy to talk about Benji Ball and their experience as entrepreneurs with the students at MicroSociety Academy Charter School in Nashua, N.H. The school was started by Malone and two other UML education alumni: Dave Cronin '69, ’86 and Theresa Roach ’80.

The presentation and discussion with students in grades two through eight was a wonderful teaching and learning experience, Morante says.

“It gave us a deeper insight into how schools might use the game,” he says. “We also wanted the kids to understand that this (venture) was new to us, so we talked about the mistakes we made as well as our successes.” 

The connection to the charter school also might get Morante a job offer when he graduates.

“The last thing they said to me is, ‘What year are you? We’re always looking for new teachers,’” he says.

Morante still has another year and a half to go. In the meantime, he’s getting more teaching experience at DCU’s information center.

“I mentor and train people as they learn how to do the job,” he says.