HAMILTON TOWNSHIP — Oakcrest High School has announced its Educational Services Professional of the Year and Teacher of the Year, both of whom have returned to their alma mater. The former is guidance counselor Ashley Perone and the latter is English and film teacher Ed Clark.

“I grew up in the heart of Mays Landing between Lake Lenape and Young’s Skating Center,” Perone said. “I now live with my husband, Dave Perone Jr., and my two daughters, Payton, 8, and Penelope, 2, in Hammonton.”

“I started at Oakcrest in 2005 as a student and graduated in 2009. I then graduated from Richard Stockton University with a bachelor of arts degree in psychology with a minor ... in digital literacy in 2013. I then came back to Oakcrest as a paraprofessional in 2013 while I was in school at Wilmington University getting my master’s degree in school counseling. I started as a full-time school counselor at Oakcrest in 2016.”

“I learned that I won this award when the announcement came over the intercom from Mr. Reina while I was in a meeting with my supervisor and fellow guidance counselors.”

“My supervisor, John Cocuzza, has taught me the skills that have shaped my career and professional life. John’s dedication, wisdom and spirit have always inspired me. I will forever be grateful for his mentorship and guidance.”

“As a school counselor, I believe in a direct yet empathetic approach. I believe I have a unique ability to connect with students, and an expertise in counseling diverse student populations whose learning and social functioning levels cover a wide spectrum, and an ability to build relationships. I have established positive, lasting relationships with both professional staff and students, which has allowed me to make an impact. My goal is to prepare students to excel at the next level in their lives. In my fourth year as a full-time school counselor at Oakcrest, I am looking forward to embarking on my next adventure and developing, or continuing, a relationship with the students.”

“I still live in the small, quiet town of Port Republic, the place where I was raised,” Clark said. “I attended Oakcrest High School and graduated in 2003. I received my degree in English literature from La Salle University in 2007, and two years later, I graduated from Stockton University with a bachelor’s in secondary education. I have taught full time for the Greater Egg Harbor Regional High School District since 2011. During my first year, I worked at Absegami High School, until I was transferred to Oakcrest in 2012.

“While I enjoyed working at Absegami, there is something special about Oakcrest; it immediately felt like home. There is a tremendous amount of school spirit as well as camaraderie amongst the staff. There are many things I love about my job. I currently teach a course called Honors Literature and Cinema, in which I get my students to see the connections between films and classic works of literature. I also currently teach AP Language and Composition. This is a writing-intensive course, and I enjoy the challenge of helping students grow as thinkers, writers and informed citizens.”

“Working with young people is a special privilege. It is extremely challenging and requires a good deal of patience, empathy and open-mindedness, but making a positive change, no matter how big or how small, in a young person’s life is extremely rewarding.”

“One of the most challenging but rewarding aspects of my job is one of my extracurricular positions: I am the head of stagecraft, a position that places me in charge of designing and building two sets a year, one for the fall play, and a second for our elaborate winter musical. The opportunity to be creative and to build something to enhance the performances of our students is the job I most look forward to each year.”

“If you know nothing about Oakcrest, please know this: Our performing arts students are incredibly talented. Anything I can do to support the students who grace our stage is nothing less than an honor.”

“My advice to a prospective teacher is simple, this is a vocation. You cannot be an effective teacher unless you are passionate and genuinely excited to work in your classroom. This is a lesson I learned from one of my mentors, a 40-year veteran of Oakcrest High School, Mr. Doug Cervi.”

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