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'I am honored'
Cousins Middle music educator wins Teacher of the Year

COVINGTON - A crowd of Newton County School System personnel, supporters and family members gathered at Porter Memorial Auditorium late Thursday afternoon for the naming of the 2009 Teacher of the Year.

Cousins Middle School music teacher and band director Christine Kraemer received the honor, which she said was both exciting and unexpected.

"I am honored and very humbled," she said, adding that the process required to achieve the honor had helped her to grow as a teacher. She thanked her students, their parents and NCSS administrators whom she credited with making her achievement possible.

The runners-up were Eastside High's Bart Buff and Mansfield Elementary's Alicia Stewart, both of whom had shared finalist honors with Kraemer.

NCSS Superintendent Steve Whatley welcomed school board members in attendance and thanked the Newton County Chamber of Commerce for their sponsorship of the Teacher of the Year awards program.

He reminded all 21 NCSS Teachers of the Year - one representative from each school in the county - that their rewards came "not necessarily in salary, but from your passion for teaching and learning and your dedication to your students."

Eastside High's Eric Adams recalled his time as 2008 Teacher of the Year and told this year's honorees that the "students are always at the center of any honor we might receive."

Newton County Chamber of Commerce Chairman Troy Brooks presented each school's Teacher of the Year with a certificate of their achievement and introduced the three finalists. He singled out Kraemer as the 2009 Teacher of the Year by reading an excerpt from the essay she wrote for the competition.

Smiling and trembling, Kraemer was presented with a check for $1,000 and will receive a crystal vase, three months free car rental from Covington Ford and a Teacher of the Year ring from Herrf-Jones. The two runners-up each received a crystal vase commemorating the occasion.

A reception honoring each of the teachers followed the ceremony.

Kraemer has taught at Cousins Middle School since 2004, where she is a member of the Cousins School Leadership Team and serves as coordinator of the Connections Department. She is also a participant in the school system's Teachers as Leaders program. For Four years prior to joining the Cousins staff, she taught band at Lee County Middle School.

She earned her bachelor of science degree in music education from Columbus State University in 1996 and her master's in music education in 2002 as well as a master's degree in music performance and conducting in 2004 from the University of Georgia. While at the university, Kraemer was awarded two graduate teaching assistantships, instructing in woodwind methods, concert band and music appreciation.

Kraemer is a member of the Georgia Music Educators Association, where she serves as a mentor teacher for new band directors. She has been selected to present, "The Power in the Progress System," her published curriculum and data management software at the GMEA Professional Development Conference in January.

Barbara Knowles can be reached at barbara.knowles@newtoncitizen.com

SideBar: At a glance

2008-09 Newton County School System Teachers of the Year

Teacher of the Year

Cousins Middle - Christine Kraemer

Top Finalists

Mansfield Elementary - Alicia Stewart

Eastside High - Bart Buff

School Finalists

East Newton Elementary - Karen Dozier

Fairview Elementary - Gaile Stephens

Ficquett Elementary - Rhonda Mullinax

Heard-Mixon Elementary - Sandi Newsham

Livingston Elementary - Patricia Almand

Middle Ridge Elementary - Gladys Knepper

Oak Hill Elementary - Jane Shytle

Palmer-Stone Elementary - Nancy Costley

Porterdale Elementary - Marcie Williams

Rocky Plains Elementary - Arlene Hyman

South Salem Elementary - Julie Matthews

West Newton Elementary - Billie Roberts

Clements Middle - Kandice Thomas-Crockett

Indian Creek Middle - Vita Reed

Veterans Memorial Middle - Lynn House

Alcovy High - Adam Phyall

Newton High - Adrienne Boisson

Sharp Learning Center - Nikiya Webb