Mainland Regional High School's business and technology teacher Bernadette Daley wanted to be a teacher for as far back as she could remember.

As a child she said she loved playing school, and as a high school student she simply loved school.

"For a lot of people high school can be some of the hardest years with all the stresses of getting by and fitting in," said Daley, a 1984 graduate of Mainland Regional High School. "For me, it was wonderful. Mainland left a good impression on me."

Daley credits her fondness for high school to her many teachers and said they are the real reason she decided to become a teacher - more precisely, she wanted to teach with them.

"Teaching at Mainland, my alma mater, was always my goal," Daley said. "We have a really good faculty, great administrative team. They really push us as educators to do our best."

Daley, the Atlantic County Teacher of the Year, and the other 20 county teachers of the year, plus the state facility teacher of the year, are in the running for state teacher of the year. The winner is expected to be named today at the state Board of Education meeting.

Daley said the county designation was overwhelming.

"It's a great feeling to be ranked up their with the top teachers in the state," she said. "It's heart warming to know so many teachers work so hard and really care about the well-being of their students."

Schools in each county select their own teacher of the year, and a committee of administrators, faculty, parents and students selected Daley as the 2012-13 Mainland Regional High School Teacher of the Year in January. Then a panel representing a cross-section of administrators, teachers, parents and county education association representatives convened by the executive county superintendent of schools selects the county teacher of the year from among that group.

Daley teaches web design, advanced web design, digital imaging, action script with flash, visual BASIC, personal finance and a freshmen seminar course to aid middle schoolers' transition into high school.

She said she believes that understanding how to use the Internet is a vital tool for students. But that's not the most important lesson she hopes to instill in her students.

"My hope is to teach my kids life skills, lessons for dealing with people in the real world," Daley said. "My job isn't to just to teach them to be great graphic designers or make a web page. My goal is to make them a better person."

Former student and 2009 Mainland Regional High School graduate Rob Erskine said he credits Daley for helping him to find his career path.

"In high school, I wasn't very social, so instead of going to lunch I went to Ms. Daley's room and hung out on the computers. She taught me how web design, Erskine said.

Today, Erskine works as a creative technologist at a Fortune 500 advertising company in Boston, Hill Holliday, where he works on web development.

"Her door was always open," he said. "I guess I could thank Ms. Daley for helping me find my passion."

The 2012-13 New Jersey State Teacher of the Year will be the state's representative for national teacher of the year honors.

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