Erica DePalo Arrested, Former 'Teacher of the Year' Charged With Sexual Assault

A New Jersey "Teacher of the Year" was arrested on Friday over claims that she had a 3-month affair with a 15-year-old student.

Erica De Palo, 33, from Essex County, N.J. is facing first and second-degree aggravated sexual assault charges as well as claims that she endangered the welfare of a child from West Orange High School.

Named as the top teacher as part of the state Department of Education's 'New Jersey Teacher of the Year program for the 2011-2012 school year, DePalo is being held at a northern New Jersey jail with a $100,000 bail.

The honors English teacher is being accused of having a sexual relationship with one of her pupils that dates back to June 15 and ended last Thursday, according to the Star Ledger.

Police as well as DePalo's lawyer have declined to make any further remarks, but students at the Essex County high school were blindsided.

"I was kind of shocked," Arnold Ajonda explained to CBS New York. "I was a little surprised. She was really close with the students and we all like her. She was always there after school if you ever needed any help."

West Orange Public School district announced that DePalo has been suspended "immediately and indefinitely" in a statement, according to Montclair Patch.

DePalo, from the town of Montclair, explained her dedication to teaching after having accepted the "Teacher of the Year" award.

"I don't have any children, and I always say that I don't have any children to go home and take care of," DePalo told The Record of Bergen County. "But every morning and every day that I go to school I have 110 children that are very near-and-dear to my heart."

"I am merely a representative of all the hardworking dedicated teachers, especially those with whom I work at West Orange High School," she added.