Staff Photo: Erin Evans Rothell Lewis, a special education teacher at Live Oak Elementary School, was named the 2012 Teacher of the Year for the Newton County School System during a special reception on Thursday at Newton High School. He will represent Newton County in the state-level competition.
COVINGTON -- Live Oak Elementary School teacher Rothell Lewis is living out God's calling for him and the dream of his mother -- changing kids' lives while teaching them and giving back to the community.
As a child, Lewis thought he might like to be a doctor to give back to the community, but then he realized he was meant to be a teacher after working as a camp counselor at age 12 in New Orleans.
"It felt good to help those kids, even though I was a kid myself, and right there I knew that I wanted a job helping people for a living," he wrote in an essay for the Teacher of the Year competition.
On Thursday, Lewis was named Newton County's 2012 Teacher of the Year during a special reception at Newton High School's Porter Auditorium -- dozens of coworkers, students, family members and friends cheered him on by screaming and waving green pompoms during the event.
"You won't convince me that I deserve this more than" the other teachers I work with and am inspired by in the Newton County School System, he said. "I'm in awe every time I go to school and see the wonderful teachers."
Lewis has worked at NCSS since 2007, when he began as a teacher at West Newton Elementary School. Now he teaches special education at Live Oak Elementary. He previously taught in Louisiana before relocating to Georgia after Hurricane Katrina hit.
He received both his bachelor's degree in psychology and master's degree in special education from the University of New Orleans in 1995 and 2006, respectively. He received his education specialist degree in educational leadership from Liberty University in 2010 and is pursuing his doctorate degree.
For winning the competition, Lewis received from sponsors a dozen roses, a crystal vase, a three-month rental from Covington Ford on a vehicle of his choice and a $1,000 check courtesy of Honda of Conyers.
"This is God's calling for my life," Lewis wrote in his essay.
Lewis now will go on to represent Newton County in the state-level competition for Teacher of the Year.
He was up against two other finalists -- Karen Greene, art teacher at East Newton Elementary School, and Aaron Robinson, an economics teacher at Newton High School.
The three finalists were chosen from 22 school-level teachers. Five judges then read their essays, interviewed them and observed their classrooms before choosing the winner.
"These men and women symbolize excellence in teaching," said NCSS Superintendent Gary Mathews. "These teachers reap rewards ... from their dedication to students and their passion for teaching for learning."
Each Teacher of the Year received a corsage and a plaque honoring their achievement; the two runners-up also received a crystal vase from sponsors. The Newton County Chamber of Commerce sponsored Thursday's awards program and reception.