The Clark Public Schools supports the New Jersey State Teacher of the Year Program. Each year, schools across New Jersey select School Teachers of the Year. From these teachers, one is further honored with the designation of District Teacher of the Year, as selected by a district committee. District Teachers of the Year are then eligible to be selected to represent the county as County Teacher of the Year. Finally, from the 21 County Teachers of the Year, a State Teacher of the Year is selected and serves for an entire school year.
"This year, the district’s School Teachers of the Year are all beacons of light within their buildings and across the district," says Clark Superintendent Ken Knops. "Each one brings a uniquely positive outlook on life, on the profession, and especially on the students they serve and guide in the Clark Public Schools every day. The district is fortunate to have teachers of such high quality."
The 2011 Arthur L. Johnson School Teacher of the Year is Italian teacher, Joanne Ranahan. Ranahan graduated with a Bachelor’s degree from Dickinson College and has seven years teaching experience at ALJ. According to Knops, Ranahan consistently goes above and beyond as an educator, advisor and mentor. She promotes “Crusader Pride,” at ALJ as the advisor of the Student Council, the Italian Club and the Italian Honor Society. She presents workshops each year as part of the district’s New Teacher Induction Program. She has written curriculum, hosted student teachers, mentored new teachers, and is currently pursuing her master’s degree at Monmouth University.
Representing Carl H. Kumpf School as their 2011 School Teacher of the Year is math teacher, Elaine Zemekis. Zemekis graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Felician College and has 38 years of teaching experience in the district. Zemekis is often called a “go-to” teacher by her colleagues, and the “glue” of the sixth grade team. In addition to her commitment to her students, Zemekis serves as the Math Club advisor, serves on the Crisis Team and is a contributing member of Kumpf’s Faculty Council. Zemekis is a big supporter of Rutgers University and its athletic teams.
The 2011 Frank K. Hehnly School Teacher of the Year is first-grade teacher, Mary Arrowood. Arrowood earned her bachelor’s degree from Kean College and has worked in various capacities in the district since 1985. She has been a teacher for the past 21 years. Arrowood was the student council advisor for many years, currently serves on the Crisis Response Team and is active in the Hehnly PTA. Arrowood has always differentiated for her students by raising the bar for accelerated learners and through one-on-one support and reinforcement for struggling learners.
Paula Spence is the 2011 Valley Road School Teacher of the Year. Spence completed her bachelor’s degree at Kean University and has 12 years of teaching experience. Spence is described as a hands-on teacher who not only plans structured, meaningful lessons, but also capitalizes on the teachable moments that often arise in the classroom. Spence has served on multiple district and school committees, been a PTA teacher representative and frequently returns to school in the evening to assist with chaperoning school activities. Spence also dedicates her time to community activities like volunteering at a local animal shelter, participating in reservoir clean-ups and Relays for Life, and volunteering her time at the public library to tutor at-risk students in reading and writing over the summer months. In addition to being named as Valley Road School’s Teacher of the Year, Spence also has the honor of being selected as the 2011 District Teacher of Year and is in the running for the Union County Teacher of the Year.