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East Newton teacher wins top teacher award

Julie Thompson, a fourth-grade teacher at East Newton Elementary School, was named the 2013 Teacher of the Year for the Newton County School System during a special reception on Thursday at Newton High School. She will represent Newton County in the state-level competition. Staff Photo: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith

Julie Thompson, a fourth-grade teacher at East Newton Elementary School, was named the 2013 Teacher of the Year for the Newton County School System during a special reception on Thursday at Newton High School. She will represent Newton County in the state-level competition. Staff Photo: Sue Ann Kuhn-Smith

COVINGTON -- After teaching in the Newton County School System since 2001, Julie Thompson received her first graduation invitation last year from her first group of students graduating high school, and now this year she is the county's Teacher of the Year.

"I know my legacy, my greatest contribution, will not be seen today or tomorrow, but in the lives of my students as adults," she wrote in her essay for the Teacher of the Year competition. "When I consider my responsibility as a teacher, I think of the struggles students will face without a good education. I cannot imagine letting a child leave my class without knowing I have given my best and opened new worlds for him or her."

On Thursday, Thompson was named Newton County's 2013 Teacher of the Year during a special reception at Newton High School's Porter Auditorium amid cheers and screams from fellow coworkers, students and parents.

"I never expected to be here," she said after the announcement was made.

She said the other 21 teachers represent the good in the school system, and she couldn't be where she is without support from her friends and family, who have helped her better value her education.

"I work with a marvelous group of folks, and they challenge me everyday to be the educator I am," she said. "(The students) are the reason I do what I do and love it as I do. These students truly make it a pleasure to come to work everyday."

Thompson holds a bachelor of science degree in early childhood education from Shorter College, a master of arts degree from Piedmont College and a educational specialist degree from the University of Georgia. She also holds a gifted certification.

She began her education career at East Newton Elementary School in 2001, teaching third grade, and began teaching fourth grade in 2011.

She is East Newton's Teacher Leader for the Learning Focused Schools and Keys to Quality programs, and she also is a mentor teacher to new teachers in the district and works with student teachers and local high school students through the job shadow program.

Outside of school, she volunteers with Relay for Life, her church's Vacation Bible School and as juror commissioner for Newton County.

Thompson was up against two other finalists -- Whitney Jackson, a math teacher at Veterans Memorial Middle School, and Kimberly Malcom, a special education teacher at South Salem Elementary School. They all were graded by a TOTY selection committee after observing them in their classrooms.

The three finalists were chosen from 22 school-level teachers, who were nominated by their peers earlier this year. Judges representing NCSS, the Newton County Chamber of Commerce and local businesses and civic organizations evaluated their essay packets and interviews.

All 22 TOTYs were recognized at the reception with a certificate, plaque and corsage. The two runners-up each received a crystal vase and a gift basket and $250 gift card to Kroger.

"These men and women symbolize excellence in teaching," said NCSS Superintendent Gary Mathews, adding that they are frontline champions.

The 2013 Newton County Teacher of the Year also received a crystal vase, a dozen roses, a Kroger gift basket and a $500 gift card, a free three-month car rental from Covington Ford on a 2012 Ford Explorer and a check for $1,000.

The winner also will represent NCSS in the state-level Teacher of the Year competition later this year.

"I'm sure she'll be an excellent representative of Newton County Schools and suspect she just might win," Mathews said.

The Newton County Chamber of Commerce helped sponsor Thursday's awards program and reception.