At the NJEA Educational Support Professionals (ESP) Conference on Feb. 1, Stacy Yanko was honored as the 2020 NJEA Educational Support Professional of the Year. Featured in the February NJEA Review, Yanko is a guidance secretary at Hopatcong High School. She has been with the district since 2006, when she was hired as a paraprofessional.
Among her many responsibilities as a guidance secretary, Yanko helps students and their families find the right colleges and post-secondary opportunities. She also helps students identify and apply for scholarships and many other tasks.
“I get to do a little bit of everything,” Yanko said. “I primarily support our school counselors. I take care of all the registrations and withdrawals of students here at the high school. I help our students and staff every day by printing things out, making copies, working on the grade report, transcripts, transcript requests, HIB reporting and student of the month awards with the main office.”
Yanko once spearheaded the revitalization of a school library. The library went from being a wasted space in the school building, to a vibrant place where both students and teachers felt welcomed and inspired.
NJEA President Marie Blistan presented her with the award.
“We are proud that Stacy Yanko is being recognized for outstanding work both in school and with her local association,” Blistan said. “Her students and colleagues rely on her expertise and appreciate her dedication to our profession.”
“Member participation is important at every level, and I want everyone to experience the enthusiasm and pride that I feel in my heart,” Yanko said upon accepting the award. “I am truly honored to have the opportunity to be awarded this recognition.”
Jayne Carmen, vice president for ESP of the Hamilton Township Education Association in Atlantic County, received the 2020 NJEA Career Achievement Award. She also chairs the HTEA Pride and FAST Committee. In the Hamilton Township School District, Carmen serves as the administrative assistant to the director of curriculum and as secretary for the child study team at William Davies Middle School.
NJEA Vice President Sean M. Spiller presented the award.
“After reading all the letters of recommendation for her nomination, a common thread kept coming up,” Spiller said. “Jayne is always willing and able to help wherever she goes. As one letter said, ‘She gets things done!’”
While serving as chair of the Pride and FAST Committee, Carmen expanded its scope by involving many school and area residents in projects that have been critical to the community’s well-being.
“Jayne is her community, and she has remained dedicated to working on behalf of her members there,” Spiller said. “Whether Jayne is running a food bank for veterans, helping with scouts, or making sure everyone is invited to the community picnic, Jayne is committed to helping others.”
Carmen, however, extended the credit to others.
“So many exceptional people work quietly, consistently, and without accolades, and I want to accept this award in their honor,” Carmen said. “We do what we do because we love the students we serve, and we appreciate how hard our colleagues are working to make sure our schools are happy, nurturing environments for children, so they can thrive and reach their full potential.”
The Friend of ESP Award recognizes leadership, dedication, commitment and support that demonstrates true friendship of and advocacy for ESPs and their contributions to public education and students.
Kevin Ciak, a member of the Sayreville Board of Education, was awarded the 2020 NJEA Friend of ESP Award. Just 19 years old when he was first elected to the board in 1994, Ciak has served as its president for 14 years of his 26-year tenure.
Ciak was president of the New Jersey School Boards Association from 2006-08 and president and chair of the National School Boards Association in the 2017-18 school year. He also served two years as president, and another two as vice president, of the Middlesex County School Boards Association. He was honored as 2002-03 Middlesex County Board Member of the Year.
Kevin Bloom, the secretary of the Sayreville Education Association, nominated Ciak.
“You would be hard pressed to find someone else who demonstrated a clearer alignment to the principles set forth by NJEA to ‘…create an optimal environment to achieve excellence in public education in New Jersey,’” Bloom wrote.
Ciak has been instrumental in growing the ESP workforce in the district. In the last 20 years, Sayerville has gone from employing 134 ESPs to 210.
“In fact, when privatization was discussed within the district—notably at a time when he was not the board president—Kevin made clear his opposition to privatization as a cost-saving alternative,” NJEA Secretary-Treasurer Steve Beatty said in conferring the award.
In his support for Ciak’s nomination, Sayerville School District Superintendent Richard Labbe noted, “Kevin has always championed the work of our education support professionals, whom he feels are the unsung heroes in our district that—like every faculty member—take pride in the direct and indirect impact they make daily on our students.”
County ESPs of the year
Teresa Calvi, a paraprofessional with the Mainland Regional Education Association
Diane DeBiase, a secretary with the Carlstadt Education Association.
Deborah Crosby, a teaching assistant with the Burlington County Special Services Education Association
Cape May County
Kenneth Basset, a paraprofessional with the Cape May County Special Services Staff Association
Jodi Dickinson, a library clerk with the Hopewell Educators Association
Renaud Pierre Louis, a bus driver with the South Orange-Maplewood Education Association
Shawn Dudley, a custodian with the Washington Township School Support Service Personnel Association
Jeannine Visconti, a paraprofessional with the West New York Education Association
Carol Rocha, a secretary with the Hunterdon Central Education Association
Antoinette Hopkins, a pareducator with the Princeton Regional Educations Support Staff Association
Kim McMillan, a dropout prevention officer with the New Brunswick Education Association
Jacqueline Kruzik, an instructional assistant with the Matawan Aberdeen Regional Education Association.
Jean Swanick, a paraeducator with the Rockaway Borough Education Association
Lisa Moody, a paraprofessional with the Lakewood Education Association
Belitza Callegari, an instructional aide with the Paterson Education Association.
Jennifer Jenkis, a paraprofessional with the Woodstown-Pilesgrove Regional Education Association.
Stacey Yanko, a guidance secretary with the Hopatcong Office Personnel Association
Colleen Nemeth, a secretary with the Clark Education Association
Ann Davis, a secretary with the Phillipsburg Education Association