EGG HARBOR CITY — The Educational Services Professional of the Year and Teacher of the Year at Cedar Creek High School have been announced. The former honor goes to guidance counselor Sarah Leathers while the latter recipient is social studies teacher Jim Erney.
Leathers grew up in Exton, Pennsylvania, and is now a resident of Galloway Township, where she lives with her husband, Zack, a teacher at Oakcrest High School, and children Michelle, 6, and Logan, 3. She has served in the district for 11 years, including 9½ years as a guidance counselor. She also serves as an assistant coach for the girls soccer team, as a peer mediation adviser and a graduation coordinator.
She is a graduate of Downington High School in Pennsylvania; Shippensburg University, where she earned her bachelor's degree in psychology with a minor in coaching; and Wilmington University, where she received her master's degree in school counseling.
“I appreciate the school spirit and the relationships I've built over the years,” she said. “It was hard coming from Pennsylvania and not knowing anyone. Everyone at the Creek is very welcoming, and we work as a team. The people are truly amazing and make working here fun and exciting. Our pep rallies are next to none as well, we definitely have the best. They are something I look forward to."
“From my students I have learned to slow down a bit and just listen. They don't need advice on their issues and problems, they just want someone to listen to them and hear their thoughts. On a lighter note, I've learned a lot about new technology coming out."
“My biggest mentors would be my mom and older sister. They are the hardest working people I know. They taught me to put your family first and work for what you want. They are my biggest support team and encourage me to do my best. My other mentors would be the women I work with as well. You are as good as the people you surround yourself with. Working with them every day makes me a better person, and I learn so much from them."
“I am so fortunate that I get to work with students on all different levels. Whether it's a senior applying to college or a ninth-grader trying to get comfortable with a new school and meeting new people. Every day is different, and I never know walking in that day what is going to happen. It's exciting and challenging. I love working with everyone at Cedar Creek because we support each other in every aspect of our lives. You can't find that at a lot of other schools. We are a family here.”
Erney grew up in Egg Harbor Township and currently lives in Ocean City with his wife, Crystal, son, James, and daughters Callie and Maycie. He has taught in the district for 19 years, including ten years at Cedar Creek.
He graduated from Egg Harbor Township High School in 1997, Rowan University in 2001 and the American Military University in 2010. He has a bachelor's degree in history and a master's degree in sports management. He currently teaches AP U.S. Government and U.S. History 1 and also serves as an assistant football coach.
Erney discovered he wanted to be a teacher as a high school sophomore. “I really enjoyed U.S. History and my interest continued from there,” he said.
“I enjoyed high school because athletics were such a big part of it. I was able to form bonds with coaches and friends."
“My favorite subject to teach is a Civil War introductory lesson where students make ice cream sundaes, but the toppings are nontraditional (pickles, ketchup, kale, etc.) to demonstrate the logistics of a nation that was half free and half slave.”
“Teachers get to share in things in this profession that are unique to others: pep rallies, championship parades, proms, graduations to list a few. It can be a grind but, in the end, you know you are always working toward something greater than yourself.”
“My greatest mentors have been George Wilkinson at Egg Harbor Township High School, who inspired me to get into teaching, and coaching, while Jeri-Lynn Vernon was instrumental in making sure I grew and survived my earliest years of teaching. It is really hard to keep your head above water at the start of a teaching career if you don't have the right support.”
“I have also learned from my students that I have coached in football, basketball and track to have a greater appreciation of time, because four years goes really fast.”
“The thing I like most about our school is that we all take pride in being Cedar Creek Pirates, and that we challenge ourselves to make our school great.”