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Head of the class: Sheets named top teacher in Newton

Photo by Michael Buckelew

Photo by Michael Buckelew

COVINGTON -- Your eyes didn't deceive you this morning if you saw fourth-grade teacher Melanie Sheets ride up to Heard-Mixon Elementary School in a limo.

She was named Newton County's 2010 Teacher of the Year during a reception Thursday afternoon at Newton High School's Olive Swann Porter Auditorium.

This comes after school staff members nominated her the school's Teacher of the Year earlier this semester, an application and interview process that resulted in her being one of the three county finalists in October, and an observation round that resulted in her being named the winner this month.

"How could you be more proud of somebody?" school Principal Lee Peck said after she was named the winner. "She is a teacher who teaches from the heart. There is so much substance to her. ... She doesn't do a lot of tricks -- she's one of the most natural teachers I've ever seen. ... I'm so thrilled for her."

School- and system-level staff members, Newton County Board of Education members, Newton County Chamber of Commerce members, teachers' family and friends and other community members celebrated the announcement at the reception.

"I consider myself to be in good company," said Sheets. "My students work so hard and make it easy to go to work most days. ... I am very honored and look forward to the year ahead. I'm sure it will be exciting, and I'm ready for it."

Sheets previously taught at Ficquett Elementary School for 15 years, after a background in music performance at Princeton University and then working in human resources at Macy's in Atlanta.

"I believe that my greatest accomplishment in education is my commitment to focusing on motivating and inspiring children to work toward their potential," she wrote in her Teacher of the Year essay. "By recognizing individual needs and by sharing my enthusiasm for learning, I see excitement about school and tremendous growth in my students. Each year, I see attitudes change as the students realize that learning is fun."

Each school Teacher of the Year received a certificate honoring their achievement and a corsage, and the three finalists also received a crystal vase.

"These teachers, along with many others, will touch hundreds of lives, thousands of lives," Newton County School System Superintendent Steven Whatley said. "This is certainly an achievement in which all of you can be proud. We appreciate you and what you do for the students and the school system."

For winning, Sheets also received a dozen roses, a check for $1,000 from several sponsors, a limo ride to work and dinner compliments of Covington Ford.

Next, she will complete another application to compete for the state's Teacher of the Year title.