Ashley Park is Tompkins NHS director, English department chair and an AP Literature teacher. She had been at Morton Ranch High School for seven years prior to coming to Tompkins five years ago. When she started at Tompkins, the school had just opened so there were only two grade levels worth of teachers. In a very short amount of time she has taken on the task of growing her department rapidly as well as the NHS program.
“I work with fantastic people and my department and the other department chairs help each other out and make this a wonderful place to work. I try to help in any way that I can and make our department a productive and happy work environment. I think that’s what is really unique about Tompkins and what has always been here since the beginning – the real drive to support one another and cheer each other on, helping in any ways that we can, whether it’s people we know or just fellow Falcons,” said Park.
Park attended Stephen F. Austin State University and received a Bachelor of Arts degree. She double majored in radio/TV and public relations, while also minoring in marketing. After attending school there, she began working in engineering marketing, public relations and was a consultant for Accenture. She had always planned to teach later in life, but desired to have experience in the corporate world first. After deciding that her current job was unfulfilling, she decided to go back to school for an education degree. She attended Sam Houston State University and received a Masters of Education degree in school counseling. She has been in education ever since.
“I found quickly, at the end of each day, that I was unsatisfied and unfulfilled with just contributing to corporate entities. I wanted to do a job where I could really connect and make a difference, so I went into teaching as soon as I could,” said Park.
Over the course of Park’s 14 years in education, she has grown more connected to her students through her humor and ability to make class activities more entertaining. She has developed phrases like ‘all of the things’ and ‘it’s all bad’ that students mimic in and out of her classroom. She also understands that her class is challenging and gives as much preparation time as possible. At times, students will have an essay, a test and a quiz all in one week. Park prepares the students by giving a calendar well in advance, giving prewriting assignments, quizzing the students on vocabulary at the beginning of class each day and always being open to questions. She answers emails or Remind messages as quickly as she can and invites students to ask any questions before or after class.
“Mrs. Bagley, my AP English Literature teacher and theatre director helped inspire me to be a teacher. I distinctly remember being upset one day as a freshman and Mrs. Bagley stopping me in the hall and asking what was wrong and somewhere in the course of the conversation saying, ‘You’re one of my children and you are important to me.’ That to me is so much of what teaching is about – going beyond just the classroom knowledge and really being there for students,” said Park.