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Exceptional educators
School system selects top three teachers

COVINGTON - Three Newton County teachers received a surprise Thursday morning - they were selected as the Newton County School System's top three finalists for 2008 Teacher of the Year.

Associate Superintendent for Human Resources Donald Dunnigan, along with family, friends and co-workers, surprised each finalist Thursday morning in their classrooms with a bouquet of flowers and the announcement.

Eastside High School's Eric Adams, Livingston Elementary School's Pam Akin and Fairview Elementary School's Tracey McCartney were chosen as the three finalists.

"Wow, I'm speechless," said Akin, a fourth-grade teacher at Livingston. "I had no idea."

Earlier this school year, one teacher from each of the county's 20 schools was selected as a school-level teacher of the year. After that, the 20 teachers had to interview with a six-judge panel, including representatives from the Newton County School System, the Newton County Chamber of Commerce and local business and civic organizations.

The top three were selected by totaling scores from the interviews and the original essays they submitted when they entered.

The school system notified principals and family members of their selections earlier this week but kept the announcement from the teachers until Thursday morning when they entered their classrooms.

"I'm amazed. I really did not expect this because there are so many awesome teachers in this county," Akin said. "It's a good surprise."

Akin has been a teacher for 12 years, six of those at Livingston.

"I'm so glad she works with us," said Livingston Principal Wendy Hughes. "She's so passionate about her work."

Fellow top three finalist Adams, a Latin instructor at Eastside, was also surprised by the announcement. "I'm overwhelmed," said Adams, who's been a teacher at Eastside for seven years. "I wasn't expecting this."

He was about to give his students a quiz when he was interrupted by his wife, Melissa, and members of the school system with the news that he was a finalist.

"Does this mean we don't have to take that quiz?" asked one student.

"No," Adams responded with a laugh.

McCartney, a fourth-grade teacher at Fairview, is used to having her class interrupted. She's been a top three Teacher of the Year finalist twice before - once in 2003 for Fairview and once in another state.

Still, she hasn't figured out how to react yet.

"I'm still shaking," she said after receiving the news from her principal, husband and daughters. "It's such an honor."

The school system judges will observe the finalists in their classrooms Tuesday.

"The teacher with the highest combined score on the essay, interview and observation will be announced as the 2008 Teacher of the Year," according to an NCSS statement.

The school system will announce the Newton County Teacher of the Year at the 2008 Teacher of the Year reception, which will be held at 4:45 p.m. Nov. 8 at the Oliver Swann Porter Auditorium at Newton High School.

Two runners-up will each receive a crystal vase, while the winner will receive a vase, a three-month free rental from Covington Ford, a Teacher of the Year ring from Herrf-Jones and a check for $1,000.

That teacher will then be qualified to compete as the Georgia Teacher of the Year.

Each county Teacher of the Year must apply with the state Department of Education by Dec. 3. The 10 state finalists will be announced in February.

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@newtoncitizen.