Teachers were surprised and students cheered Thursday as the Newton County School System officials popped into classrooms and named the top three finalists for the 2013 Newton County Teacher of the Year.
Whitney Jackson, a Veterans Memorial Middle School sixth grade math teacher, Kimberly Malcom, a South Salem Elementary School special education teacher, and Julie Thompson, an East Newton Elementary school fourth grade teacher, were named as the top three finalists for teacher of the year.
Superintendent Gary Mathews, Deputy Superintendent of Operations Dennis Carpenter, Director of Human Resources Nyree Sanders, Director of Public Relations Sherri Davis-Viniard and the teachers' families surprised the finalists in their classrooms with flowers and balloons.
Veterans Memorial Middle School: Whitney Jackson
Whitney Jackson started teaching at Veterans Memorial in 2006. She is known at her school for helping students get involved with community service activities.
Jackson sponsors Girls Engaged in Meaningful Service, which is an all-girl middle school service organization, and she teaches Leadership Development, an after school program. Jackson said she wasn't expecting to be named as one of the top three finalists and said it was an exciting opportunity.
"I try to do the best that I can for the kids everyday," Jackson said. "The only reason that I do this is for them. This is their achievement too. I enjoy interacting with the students. They definitely are exciting to work with and every day is different. I enjoy the opportunities that they give me; thanks to my colleagues, my students and my family for taking the time to invest in me."
Veterans Memorial Assistant Principal Cindy Causey commended Jackson on her achievement.
"She's an excellent teacher," said Causey. "She's actually taught special education here. This is actually her first year teaching regular education and she's done an awesome job with mathematics and she makes class fun for the kids."
South Salem Elementary School: Kimberly Malcom
Kimberly Malcom began her teaching career at Fairview Elementary School in 2006 and then transferred to South Salem in 2008 where she teaches special education.
Malcom serves as a member of the South Salem Building Leadership Team and serves as a mentor teacher for new teachers by helping them adapt to life in the classroom.
Malcom said she was shocked that she was one of the top three finalists and said she was thankful to everyone involved in giving her the honor. Malcom has been a special education teacher for seven years.
"It's just my calling. It is what I was meant to do - in this class especially. I love it," Malcom said. "I see miracles every day. I see kids that can't talk start to talk and kids that can't write start to write. It's just wonderful. I'm just overwhelmed. It's probably the best thing that will happen to me in my whole teaching career."
Malcom's mom, Allison Haralson, expressed her happiness for her daughter after she was named as one of the top three finalists.
"We are so excited," Haralson said. "She is one of a kind. She loves teaching and she gives her whole heart to it."
"I have known Kimberly for seven years and I saw from the beginning that there was going to be nobody like her," said Principal Holly Dubois. "She's amazing. She connects with kids better than any teacher I have seen in my life. I have seen her work miracles with children."
East Newton Elementary School: Julie Thompson
Julie Thompson has been teaching at East Newton since 2001. She started as a third grade teacher but now teaches fourth grade at the school.
Thompson is East Newton's teacher Leader for the Learning Focused Schools and Keys to Quality program. She also serves as a mentor teacher to new teachers in the district's BEST program. She said she never expected the honor.
"I love seeing the kids find their joy and find their passion in what they love doing," Thompson said. "I'm just very shocked and humbled. I've had a lot of family support and support here at East Newton."
Thompson said this is her 12th year teaching. She said her husband John Thompson is also a fourth grade teacher, who teaches at Middle Ridge Elementary School.
East Newton Principal Kim Coady screamed with joy and quickly led the way to Thompson's classroom to surprise her with the announcement.
"She deserves it so much. She goes so far above what is expected," Coady said.
"We are just so proud of her. I would have loved to be in her fourth grade class," Thompson's sister Sherrie Bruce said. "I think she and John are both excellent fourth grade teachers and they just give so much to their kids."
The teacher of the year selection committee will meet on Oct. 9 to observe all three finalists in their classroom. The teacher with the highest combined score on the essay, interview and observation will be announced as the 2013 Teacher of the Year during a ceremony at Newton High School at 4:45 p.m. Oct. 25.
All 22 teachers of the year will be recognized at the ceremony. The three finalists will receive a crystal vase award. The 2013 Teacher of the Year will receive one dozen roses, a three-month free car rental from Covington Ford and a check for $1,000 from the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce.