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Newton schools pick Top 3 teachers

Staff Photos: Erin Evans  The Newton County School System announced its Top 3 finalists for its Teacher of the Year competition on Monday morning. Pictured is Rothell Lewis Jr., a special education teacher at Live Oak Elementary School, being surprised by his wife and Newton County School System officials on Monday morning to let him know he is a finalist.

Staff Photos: Erin Evans The Newton County School System announced its Top 3 finalists for its Teacher of the Year competition on Monday morning. Pictured is Rothell Lewis Jr., a special education teacher at Live Oak Elementary School, being surprised by his wife and Newton County School System officials on Monday morning to let him know he is a finalist.

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Newton High School teacher Aaron Robinson was interrupted during his economics class on Monday to let him know he was a finalist. His mother Laura Robinson, stepmother Janet Robinson and girlfriend Sallie Watkins joined NCSS officials and school board members in the surprise visit.

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East Newton Elementary School Assistant Principal Leah Green and Principal Kim Coady congratulate art teacher Karen Greene for being chosen as one of the finalists. The winner will be announced during a special ceremony at Newton High School at 4:45 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 6.

COVINGTON -- It was no ordinary Monday for three teachers in Newton County.

East Newton Elementary School's Karen Greene, Live Oak Elementary's Rothell Lewis Jr. and Newton High's Aaron Robinson were informed Monday that they were in the running for the county's highest title -- Teacher of the Year. The three were selected as finalists from a pool of 22 teachers who completed essay packets and interviews with a selection committee.

Newton County School System Deputy Superintendent Dennis Carpenter said it's important to note that these three were selected by their peers and an outside group of judges.

"We really identified the best of the best, and we're really excited for them and their families," he said.

NCSS officials and school board members Jeff Meadors and Shakila Henderson-Baker, along with some of the finalists' friends and family members, surprised the teachers in their classrooms on Monday morning.

East Newton Elementary School - Karen Greene

Greene, an art teacher at East Newton Elementary School, has worked at NCSS since 1997 and is entering her 21st year of teaching.

"I love learning and love passing it on to students," she said. "I'm very surprised (to be a finalist), and I hope I can represent Newton County well."

The school's Principal Kim Coady jumped with joy and was brought to tears when she heard that Greene was selected as a finalist.

"She's fabulous," Coady said. "She's the most comprehensive art teacher I've ever worked with."

Greene also has worked at Mansfield and Livingston elementary schools. Additionally, she is East Newton Elementary's technology teacher leader and a content specialist for elementary visual art at the county level.

Live Oak Elementary School - Rothell Lewis Jr.

Lewis, a special education math and reading teacher at Live Oak Elementary School, has been in education for about 15 years.

"I don't do it for the recognition," said Lewis, who has worked at NCSS since 2007 when he began at West Newton Elementary School. "This is my way of giving back."

School Principal Ericka Anderson said she couldn't think of a better person to receive this honor.

"He's dedicated -- he's (at the school) on weekends getting ready for the kids," she said. "He has a real passion."

Since he was 12 years old, Lewis has tutored students.

Newton High School - Aaron Robinson

Robinson is proud to continue the family tradition of teaching -- his grandmother was a teacher, and his mother taught special education for several years. His sister also is a teacher.

"I enjoy working with all of the different kinds of kids," said Robinson, who has worked as a social studies and economics teacher at Newton High, where he graduated from, since 2001 after beginning his career in education in 1999. "It's new and interesting all of the time. There's something about being a life-long learner too."

School Principal Craig Lockhart said Robinson deserves it -- even if he was one of the teachers who helped pull an April Fool's Day prank on him last year.

"Mr. Robinson is an excellent teacher," Lockhart said. "He's a great team player and really cares about all of the students."

Robinson also is the school's cross country coach, a teacher mentor and the founding sponsor of the school's mock trial program.

Each of the finalists received balloons and a vase of flowers on Monday.

Next week, the TOTY selection committee will observe the finalists in their classrooms.

The teacher with the highest combined score on the essay, interview and observation will be announced as the Newton County School System's 2012 Teacher of the Year during a special ceremony at Newton High School at 4:45 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 6. The winer will receive a crystal vase, a Teacher of the Year ring from HerffJones and a check for $1,000 from event sponsors.All 22 school TOTYs will be recognized at the ceremony and the two runners-up will receive a crystal vase.

The winner also will represent Newton County in the state-level competition.