What a difference a year makes.
Erica DePalo, 33, won the Essex County, N.J. Teacher of the Year award in 2011. Last Friday, she was arrested and accused of having a sexual relationship with one of her 15-year-old honors English students, according to CBS New York.
Many of the students that the station spoke with were blindsided by the allegations.
“I was kind of shocked,” Arnold Ajondo said. ”I was a little surprised. She was really close with the students and we all liked her. She was always there after school if you ever needed any help.”
DePalo was charged with first-degree aggravated sexual assault, second-degree sexual assault and endangering the welfare of a child, according to the Star Ledger.
The paper reports that authorities believe the relationship began on June 15 and ended last Tuesday.
Police declined to release further details about the alleged relationship and also did not reveal how authorities first learned of it, according to Montclair Patch.
In a statement obtained by Patch, the West Orange Public School district announced that DePalo has been suspended “immediately and indefinitely.