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Learning from the best
State Schools Superintendent teaches lesson during visit to Newton High School

COVINGTON - Students in Shannon Buff's Advanced Placement Government class at Newton High School had an experience that possibly no other class at the school will have again.

State Schools Superintendent Kathy Cox - donned in a Newton High blue shirt and full of energy - taught the class an American government lesson Monday morning.

She started the lesson almost immediately when she entered the room, after introducing herself and asking the students what they were learning.

Since the students have been following the presidential race and discussing the creation of the U.S. government, Cox discussed with them federalism, the United States Constitution and how the Americans at that time experienced economic hardships like many today are facing.

Cox taught from a PowerPoint slide, asked students questions, gave them tips and showed them a YouTube video about the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case Marbury vs. Madison. She said when she taught school in the late 1980s, she showed the same video, called "Equal Justice Under Law" using a VHS cassette.

"You still can't get YouTube in your school, but we got special permission to show this," Cox told the students. "It's still the best video on Marbury vs. Madison."

Every time Cox asked students a question or asked for a volunteer to read something, several students often raised their hands to respond. Many times their answers were correct, but they weren't afraid to give a wrong answer or ask her a question.

"I'm very impressed; they are very well prepared," Cox said to Buff about the students. "They were very knowledgeable."

During her lesson, Cox also provided the students with a pocket-sized version of the United States Constitution, several handouts and ink pens.

Eleventh-grade student Tre Thornton said the visit was exactly what he thought it would be like.

"It was interesting. It was a great lecture," he said.

After the lesson, Cox visited several other classrooms and later met privately with a group of central office staff, administrators, teachers and students.

School Principal Roderick Sams said the state Department of Education approached the school system about Cox visiting and teaching a class in the county.

"She was going to be in our area, and we were very willing to accept the offer," Sams said. "We were pleasantly surprised but also welcomed her. Teachers and students welcome the positive attention."

Cox, who was elected as state school superintendent in 2002 and again in 2006, teaches a Georgia class about twice per month.

"I'm required by the Constitution to visit the schools, but I added a piece to that" by actually teaching a lesson to the students during the visit, said Cox, who taught high school world history and American government for 15 years. "It's my favorite part of the job. ... (Teaching) keeps my feet wet - it's a good reminder of what it's all about. I still enjoy it, and I miss it."

During Monday's visit, Sams also presented Cox with a NHS name tag and a blue ram lapel pin.

"You are a Newton Ram today," he told her.

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