By Clyde Hughes | AC JosepH Media
EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP â€“ Neysha Parker said she found her passion when she started teaching English as a Second Language in the Camden School District.
The Bayamon, Puerto Rico native who met her husband Andrew Parker III while a student-athlete at New Haven University, said while education was not her first choice out of college, she fell in love with South Jersey along with teaching and watching the growth and building confidence of her students.
“I landed in Camden City School District when a bilingual middle school position opened, and I can say I finally found my passion,” Parker told Front Runner New Jersey. “Many people may say that middle school is challenging, especially as an immigrant, and I cannot say I disagree. Still, the satisfaction I feel when I see the growth in language acquisition from my students and their parents’ commitment to them is the best reward.
“I often tell my studentâ€™s parents, ‘I will always treat your child with the same love and understanding I treat my own.’ In our culture, the Hispanic culture, this is one of the highest levels of respect. Moreover, just by modeling and reassuring parents of my commitment and care, I have been able to earn their trust at all levels possible.”
The Parkers have three children of their own — Devon 19, a student at Kingâ€™s College in Pennsylvania; Aniyah, a talented soccer player going into the eighth grade this year and is a member of the National Junior Honor Society; and Jayla, a free-spirited fourth grader.
When not in Camden or supporting her children, Parker is helping her husband, an Egg Harbor Township committeeman, run for a seat on the Atlantic Council Board of Freeholders.
“Supporting Andrew politically is a fantastic and rewarding journey,” Parker said.Â “I watch my husband accomplish anything he desires with dedication and finesse. I learned and continue to learn so much from him directly, and from every person we come across. Andrew is an incredibly talented person. He has a loving heart, caring, and always going to extra mile to better all.
“Since the day we met at the University of New Haven in Connecticut, I knew he was destined for greatness, and sharing this fantastic journey by his side is incredible and a dream come true. Throughout this journey, I have grown as an individual, and we have grown as a family,” she added.
Making Her Own Connections
In her own right, Parker has grown in the community. She is a member of numerous organizations the Camden Education Association, New Jersey Education Association, National Education Association, NEA Hispanic Caucus, NJEA MOC (NJEA Members of Color), the Hispanic Association of Atlantic County.
She is also a member of National Blexit, Blexit New Jersey, EHT Republican Club, Atlantic County Federation of Republican Women, National Federation of Republican Women, Atlantic County Young Republicans, NAACP Mays Landing-Pleasantville branch and Order of the Eastern Star Prince Hall Affiliated.
“I started teaching at the Atlantic City School District in 2008 as a substitute teacher, then a paraprofessional, and finally as an alternative route teacher,” Parker said. “From Atlantic City School District, I moved districts and started working at the Gloucester Township School District, where I met one of the most fantastic principals and vice-principal.
“They taught me the true meaning of teamwork and how to become a better colleague while doing what you love, educating the youth. In Gloucester Township, I met some outstanding educators and friends. I finally landed in Camden,” she said.
Camden is some 1,500 miles where Parker grew up in Puerto Rico. She finished her BS in Airways Science at the InterAmerican University of Puerto Rico.
“Two loving parents that loved my sisters and I unconditionally raised me,” she said. “They are such a great example of what parents, couples, partners, and mentors should be. The bar has been set high, and I strive to be a better mother, wife, partner, friend and mentor every day of my life.”
Parker said she and her husband became the “best of friends and partners” while at the University of New Haven, supporting each other’s dreams and paths.
“I can honestly say that we would not be; our family would not be where we are if not for the support and unconditional love we give each other,” she said. “Because of the strong roots Andrew and his family have in the EHT community, it did not take much to become heavily involved in the township.
“When Andrew started coaching youth sports, he inspired me to get involved with our childrenâ€™s teams as they continued to grow in that world. I also coached for some time before becoming part of a few booster clubs. Becoming part of these organizations has been a blessing and the foundation of the legacy we want to leave our children and generations to come.”
As an ESL/bilingual middle school teacher at Camden’s Veterans Memorial Family School, Parker said she can relate personally to the challenges her students and their parents face learning a second language.
“I have been there since January 2018 and loving every minute of it,” Parker said. “I enjoy giving back to my community, the Hispanic community, the same tools and skills I learned academically and socially. I became a teacher without planning to become a teacher. It happened out of necessity. The experiences I gained and continue to accumulate during training, studying my craft, seeking advice from more experienced educators, etc., is what I want to pass on to my students.”
Parker said while leaving Puerto Rico was one of the hardest decisions she ever made a young person, she as found plenty of rewards.
“All my coworkers and administrators are amazing,” Parker said. “Yes, we go through our difficulties, but respect and understanding are always present. We help each other personally and professionally, and we are not afraid to lift each other or recognize each other when achieving extraordinary things. We are one of the most diversely fun work families in the district.”
Whether teaching for supporting Andrew, Parker said she is in a great place in South Jersey.
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