CLARK, NJ – The "Governor’s Educators of the Year" winners from each of the Clark Public Schools were recognized for their hard work and dedication to the town’s students at Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting. 

Formally known as "Teacher of the Year," the State of New Jersey’s Department of Education website explains that the award program “highlights educational innovation, student achievement, the rewards of teaching, and important services outside the classroom environment that lead to student success.”

Each school in the district can have two eligible winners: a licensed classroom teacher and an educational services professional.  Nominations go through a rigorous approval process before being approved, Interim Superintendent Edward Grande explained in his introduction.

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Building principals introduced the winners.

Arthur L. Johnson High School

Guidance Counselor Ellen Zamboni has worked at ALJ since 2007 and has brought several great programs and events to the school’s community.  Six years ago Zamboni started the college fair, using her relationships with higher education schools to provide students a look into the opportunities available after graduation. 

Principal Rick Delmonaco said that Zamboni is also an integral part of the Key Club, getting even her family involved in events like Miles for Melanoma, dances at special needs schools and making sandwiches for families in need during the holiday season.

“Ms. Zamboni is a spectacular counselor,” said Delmonaco. “She has had a huge impact on many, many students.”

Delmonaco also presented an award to Special Education Instructor Sharon Mills.  In her 11 years with the Clark School District, Mills has gone above and beyond for the students, Delmonaco said. He said a prime example is Mills' work in memory of ALJ student Tylor Collins who passed away last year after a long battle with cancer.

“Miss Mills helped and gave to Tylor and his family more than anyone can believe,” said Delmonaco. “Since his passing, she has worked relentlessly on the Tylor Collins Scholarship Fund and Relay for Life team “Tylor’s Soldiers” to keep his memory alive.”

“This is what a teacher of the year does. She’s an excellent educator, one who is involved in the school community, one who supports her students and provides an important role model for them,” Delmonaco stated emotionally.

Carl H. Kumpf Middle School

Assistant Principal Amanda Davidson presented the Educator of the Year award to Special Education and Language Arts Instructor Victoria Hynes.

Davidson said that Hynes is “one of the most compassionate, talented and hardworking teachers we have at Kumpf Middle School.” Davidson went on to say that Hynes is professional in every way and her kindness towards others in infectious. Hynes teaches multiple classes in multiple classrooms, yet she is always prepared, Davidson said.

Hynes also assists with the enrichment program every spring, tutors and mentor student before and after school, and works with the summer extended program.  Davidson called Hyne’s teaching “multifaceted, multi-dimensional, engaging, and creative.”

“We consider ourselves lucky to call her our colleague and it is clear that her students share this sentiment and feel lucky to have her as their teacher,” Davidson said.

Frank K. Hehnly Elementary School

Principal Shirley Bergin presented awards to two of Hehnly’s educators: Michele Ferrentino and Loren Hsu.

Paraprofessional Michele Ferrentino has worked at Hehnly for 8 eight years.  Bergin said that Ferrentino is known to go above and beyond for each of her students, being an advocate and inspiring them to be the best they can be.

“Michelle has been described as the perfect storm,” Bergin said. “A balance of skill and talent, planning and spontaneity, patience and excitement, compassion and fearlessness, creativity and tradition, organization mixed with a carefree spirit and having an intrinsic understanding of people, especially the children she works with. We are so fortunate and proud to have her.” 

Special Education Instructor Loren Hsu is a certified sign language interpreter who has been working in the district for 22 years. Bergin said that when Hsu first began working in Clark, she developed a sign language program for students and parents in order to provide an inclusion setting for hearing impaired students.  Eventually this program developed into a sign language club of over 250 students.

Hsu is the only teacher in the district to get certified in ADA and DLM (alternate assessments to standardized testing offered to special education students), Bergin said.  She is also trained as a nonviolent intervention specialist to address behavioral needs of the students.

“Loren adapts her curriculum and instruction to meet the needs of diverse learners. She is a dedicated educator who demonstrates care and genuine concern for each of the students she teaches,” Bergin said. “With a resume like this, it is clearly evident that the Clark Public School District has an outstanding educator in Loren.”

Valley Road Elementary School

Principal Joseph Beltramba said he was honored to present teacher Nancy Heller and Guidance Counselor Sarah Badillo with the Governor’s Educators of the Year award.

Beltramba praised Heller as a distinguished educator who captivates her students with engaging activities while ensuring that all of their learning needs are being addressed.

“She exhausts any and all types of learning techniques to be sure that the content is delivered in a fashion in which ALL students can understand," Beltramba said. “It is apparent that she doesn’t view teaching as a job but as a lifestyle.”

Beltramba said Heller takes the time to get to know her students so that she knows how to best teach them

Beltramba said that Heller’s peers feel lucky to have her as a colleague because she is a valuable resource, one who never holds back sharing her creative ideas and insights with others.

Guidance Counselor Sarah Badillo was honored for her commitment to the students at both Valley Road and Hehnly schools.  Beltramba said he was impressed that she seems to be aware of each student’s needs across both locations. “She seems to know something about every student in the school,” he said.

She also takes the time to get to know the parents of the students, working with them as needed in a sympathetic but firm and direct style, he said.

Badillo goes out of her way to take various training classes as they apply to her job and using the learned techniques in the many committees and groups in which she serves, he said.

Beltramba also praised Badillo for her work on the school’s first International Diversity Fair, which brought families together to celebrate and share their diverse backgrounds.

Clark Preschool

Clark Preschool Director Lori Kowalski presented two of the school’s staff members with the Governor’s Educators of the Year award.

Teacher Valerie LaManna has worked at the preschool since it opened in 2009 and remains the only original staff member. Kowalski said that LaManna aided in the development of the preschool’s curriculum and continues to serve on various district committees today.

“Her open communication and flexibility and driven positive changes for our student,” Kowalski said. “LaManna demonstrates leadership by working cooperatively with peers in the preschool and throughout the district.”

Paraprofessional Kristina Novello, who has been with the school for five years, was also honored.  Kowalski described Novello as “an integral part of the student center team, supporting the classroom, teachers, and students.”

“Kristina executes often unseen but important tasks for both the classroom and the community,” Kowalski said.

Novello is currently pursuing an education in teaching students with disabilities.