Alumna Success Story: Ashley Gereli
25 August 2022
Harford Community College alumna Ashley Gereli, a special education teacher at Churchville Elementary School, was named the 2022 Harford County Public Schools Teacher of the Year at the 28th Annual Harford County Teacher of the Year virtual event.
Ashley completed C. Milton Wright High’s Teaching Academy of Maryland Program in 2012. She graduated from Harford Community College in 2014, earning an associate degree in Elementary Education/Elementary Special Education and Psychology, and completed a B.A. in Elementary and Special Education at Towson University in Northeastern Maryland (TUNE) in 2016. She completed her graduate studies in Transformational Educational Leadership (M.A.) at TUNE in July 2022.
Beginning her higher education at Harford helped pave the way for her teaching career. “Harford Community College prepared me for my future by allowing me the opportunity to explore my passions and validate that I was on the right path to my purpose. I strongly believe that if you wake up each day excited to explore your career path, you look forward to feedback to support your growth, and you are genuinely happy, then you have found your purpose. I’m grateful for my time at Harford because it validated those feelings for me and allowed me to further my journey to my purpose: Special Education.”
Ashley, who has been teaching for six years, enjoys the relationships she forms with her students. “As a special education teacher, I’m gifted with the opportunity to reach more students than just one class. Getting to know our students, their families, and transition with them from grade to grade allows me to form genuine, strong bonds with students. I’m honored to learn them as whole children: their passions, their hobbies, and of course, their favorite fast food – French fries!”
She added, “The most rewarding part of my job is to see our students find their confidence in self advocacy. Through intentional teaching, students learn how to advocate for their needs. They recognize resources that support them in achieving their goals. Each child builds their confidence over time and with that confidence, the side effect is happiness. Happiness is important and through teaching self-advocacy, I am also able to support a child’s overall happiness. That is the work I show up for each morning. That is the work I’m most proud of. And that is the work that will change the world.”
Ashley works tirelessly to help her students succeed. “I think the most important thing I have done to support our students’ success is to make learning FUN! I strive to collaborate with my colleagues and co-teachers in order to create lessons that are engaging and enjoyable. In my opinion, happiness is the highest form of engagement. I work diligently to make learning memorable and build in personal connections for students. Students who enjoy learning and feel capable of learning find themselves to be lifelong learners. Isn’t that what we all hope for?”
Being a special education teacher can be challenging at times. She says, “The largest challenge I face is time. There just never seems to be enough time in a day to do all the things our most exceptional students are deserving of. Being a special education teacher, you recognize very quickly that you need to put kids first and figure out a balance of when everything else gets accomplished. I find peace in knowing that I have the same number of hours in a day as Beyoncé. If she can do it, so can I!”
Ashley volunteers at Churchville Elementary School through various after-school or before-school activities. “I’m part of many teams that devote time to supporting students outside of the school day and am most passionate about being the Blue ClubHOUSE Leader. I am honored to be among a group of teacher leaders who dedicate many hours outside of the school day to developing team building, relationship building, and community-based activities for our students.”
In her free time, Ashley enjoys many activities including hiking with her dog. “I’m an avid distance runner, and enjoy rock climbing, snowboarding, cooking, gardening, spending time with friends and family, and anything where I can be outdoors, especially if it involves the beach!”
Her advice to Harford students? “Spend time discovering what truly makes you happy. Take time to explore your interests and hobbies now, so you can find yourself on a journey to your purpose too. Your happiness is important. Harford can support you in your exploration in seeking the right fit and beginning a path guided by your passions. Always put your happiness first.”
As the Harford County Teacher of the Year, Ashley received a free lease of a new 2022 Nissan Rogue for a year courtesy of Jones Junction, a Dell laptop, and a watch from Saxon’s Diamond Centers. In addition, she was awarded multiple gift certificates and local merchant gift cards. All five finalists received $1,000 from HAR-CO Credit Union.