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Teacher of the year finalists
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Finalists for Newton County School System's 2008 Teacher of Year were surprised in their classrooms Thursday by a visit from their families and central office staff Thursday.

Donald Dunnigan, NCSS assistant superintendent for personnel, and Sherri Viniard, director of public relations, went to the three teachers' schools to announce they had been chosen as finalists.

The three nominees are Livingston Elementary fourth grade teacher Pamela Akin, Fairview Elementary fourth grade teacher Tracey McCartney and Eastside High Latin and Greek teacher Eric Adams.

Teachers had to submit answers to essay questions about their teaching practices and philosophies as well as sit for interviews conducted by a six-member judging panel made of volunteer representatives from the school system, Covington/Newton County Chamber of Commerce, local businesses and civic organizations.

A Teacher of the Year nominee was selected from each of the county's 20 schools.

Dunnigan and Viniard first visited Akin's classroom.

Livingston Principal Wendy Hughes and Akin's family had to duck under her window so she would not see them approaching.

"Her kids are just going to be so excited," Hughes said to Akin's family.

Akin has taught at Livingston since 2002. She earned her bachelor's degree in early childhood education from Georgia State in 1996 soon after her oldest son graduated from high school. She also holds a master's in reading and literacy from Walden University and National Board for Professional Teaching Standards certification.

She has represented her schools as the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools chair, was selected as teacher of the year at Fairview in 2001, is a member of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators and is currently serving on the NCSS Teachers as Leaders Committee.

"I know there are just so many good teachers in the county, so I'm thinking 'why me,'" Akin said. "But that doesn't mean I'm not thrilled with it."

Next, Dunnigan and Viniard popped into Tracey McCartney's class. The surprise visit briefly interrupted practice testing for a writing exam her students will take next year.

"Mrs. McCartney has been doing her homework too," said Fairview Principal Holly Dubois of the application process, "writing and writing and writing."

McCartney, a teacher of 14 years, has taught at Fairview since 2000. She earned a bachelor's degree in elementary math and science from Eastern Michigan University in 1992 and a master's degree in elementary reading and literacy from Walden University this year.

In 2003, McCartney was selected as Fairview's teacher of the year and became a county finalist also.

"It feels good - it's nice," McCartney said of her election. "It's an honor to be chosen again."

McCartney also holds gifted and teacher support specialist certification, has served as grade chair leader, was a member of the Building Leadership Team and in the process of organizing a rejuvenating teacher support group.

The last stop made by Dunnigan and Viniard was to Eastside High to congratulate Eric Adams.

 Principal Robert Daria praised Adams and quietly slipped out of the room to make a school announcement while Adams - still in shock - received a hug from his wife.

"If you see him today, make sure to congratulate him," Daria said over the intercom.

Adams has taught at Eastside since earning a Bachelor of Latin, Greek and Foreign Language Education from the University of Georgia in 2001. In 2002 he received certification from the Advanced Placement Institute.

This year he earned a Master of Latin also from UGA.

He is a member of both the American Classical Association and the Georgia Classical Association, sponsors the Junior Classical League at Eastside and serves as chair of the Georgia Junior Classical League.

Adams has also served on the county interview panel for the Governor's Honors Program and on a committee to develop the Latin Georgia Assessment for the Certification of Educators.

He responded humbly to the applause of his class, thanking the students.

"None of it's possible without you guys," Adams said. "You're the best."

The six-member selection committee will view the three teachers in action by conducting classroom observations on Oct. 30.

The 2008 Teacher of the Year will be announced at 4:45 p.m. Nov. 8 at a special reception at Newton High School.