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Teacher of the year
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Eric Adams, Latin and Greek teacher at Eastside High School, was honored Thursday evening as the 2008 Newton County Teacher of the Year.

"My students will probably be pretty excited," Adams said. "Maybe they'll listen more now, but they already do that pretty well anyway."

Adams has taught at Eastside since earning a Bachelor of Arts in 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.

Thursday's awards ceremony and reception at Newton High School was sponsored by the Newton County School System and the Newton County Chamber of Commerce as well as 24 other organizations.

Buncie Hay Lanners, past chair of the chamber and executive director of the Arts Association in Newton County, announced the winner after reading excerpts from the essay he submitted to the six judges.

"I believe that a teacher must be driven," Lanners read from Adams' essay, "driven to succeed, driven to learn and driven to improve."

He also said teaching is his life.

 Teachers of the year from each of the county's 20 schools had to submit an essay to the judging panel as well as letters of recommendation from colleagues and students.

Finalists - Adams, Fairview Elementary fourth grade teacher Tracey McCartney and Livingston Elementary fourth grade teacher Pam Akin - had to interview with the judges, who also observed them in their classroom for half a day.

NCSS Superintendent Steven Whatley congratulated all of the school-level teachers of the year who he said to be named as semi-finalists had to plan to continue to teach, inspire their students, be respected and admired by their colleagues, be articulate and poised and be involved in the community.

"These educators symbolize what is the best in teaching," Whatley said. "We're proud of them and we realize teaching is a very demanding job."

Shelley Yeatman, 2007 Teacher of the Year, also congratulated the teachers and said she enjoyed spending time with all of them.

She encouraged the teachers to utilize the arts in their classrooms and even sang an original song about using theater in lesson plans to the tune of "On the Street Where You Live" from "My Fair Lady."

"We need to strive to develop a world where people know themselves as caring and compassionate people," Yeatman said. "If we do that then we can step back and watch the magic happen.

"Love life and love learning - dream big for your kids."

Lanners said as a parent, a PTO member and school council member she understands and appreciates the hard work of teachers.

"I do believe there will be a special place in heaven for teachers," Lanners said.

Adams was presented a crystal vase, a $1,000 check, a three-month rental of a Mustang convertible from Covington Ford and a 10-carat gold ring from Herff Jones.

Finalists Aiken and McCartney also received crystal vases.

Board of Education Vice Chair Almond Turner concluded the evening by sharing a quote with the audience.

"Success is not the result of a spontaneous combustion, but it is the result of setting yourself on fire," Turner said. "All of you on this stage have done that, and keep the fires burning."