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Newton County Schools name three Teacher of the Year finalists
Newton County schools office

COVINGTON, Ga. — Teachers from East Newton and West Newton elementary schools and Newton College & Career Academy were named finalists for Newton County’s 2023 Teacher of the Year award today.

Physical education teacher Blake Alexander of East Newton, biology instructor Laura Lambert of Newton College & Career Academy, and first-grade teacher Tiffany Pinnock of West Newton were named the finalists for the award, the Newton County School System and Newton Chamber of Commerce announced.

After reading essays submitted by each of the school system’s 23 school-level Teachers of the Year, a panel of judges spent two days interviewing each of the teachers. The three earning the highest point totals and, thus, entering the final round of the judging were Alexander, Lambert and Pinnock. 

On Tuesday, Sept. 27, Teacher of the Year selection committee members will observe the three finalists as they teach in the classroom setting. The person with the highest combined score on the essay, interview, and observation will be announced as the 2023 Newton County Teacher of the Year during a special ceremony at Newton High School Oct. 6, at 4:45 p.m.

Alexander is a physical education teacher at East Newton Elementary. He began his career in education at Dowell Elementary School in 2007 as a first-grade teacher before joining the Newton County School System team in 2008 as teacher at Palmer-Stone Elementary School.

Alexander taught both second and third grade at Palmer-Stone before transferring to Flint Hill as a third-grade teacher. He changed specialties and became a physical education teacher at East Newton in 2012 and has been teaching at East Newton ever since. 

He earned his bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Kennesaw State University in 2007 and his master’s degree in Post-Secondary Education from Troy University in 2009. In 2013, Alexander obtained his Education Specialist degree in Curriculum and Instruction from Valdosta State University.

“This is a huge shock to me. I can’t believe I’m a finalist,” said Alexander. “Being Teacher of the Year at East Newton was such an honor because I work with the most amazing teachers in the world, I feel like, so to be Teacher of the Year at East Newton was incredible. Then to be named top three — it’s a dream. I’m honored and I really appreciate it.”

Lambert is a biology and biotechnology instructor at Newton College and Career Academy. She began her career in education as a chemistry and biology teacher at Monroe Area High School before joining the Newton County School System and Newton College & Career Academy team in 2019. 

She earned her undergraduate degree in neuroscience from Georgia State University and her master’s degree in Education from Piedmont University in 2017. She also is certified in both Gifted and STEM. 

“It’s such a privilege to have been named (a finalist) and I know that I am in good company with the 23 other teachers of the year for the county,” said Lambert. “It’s overwhelming right now but I can appreciate that all of the work that we’ve done this year with our students is being recognized at the county level. I’m really excited and I hope that we all represent Newton County well as we move forward.”

Pinnock has served as an elementary teacher for the Newton County School System since 2019 when she joined the team at West Newton Elementary. She currently teaches first grade.

She previously taught at Idlewood Elementary, The Goddard School, and Learning Time Child Development Center. She began her teaching career in 2007.

Pinnock earned her bachelor’s degree in Child and Family Development from the University of Georgia in 2006 and her master’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Piedmont University in 2014.

“I feel very honored,” said Pinnock. “I feel overjoyed and I feel a little validated as a teacher and educator that the hard work that I do each day and night for my students has paid off and is being recognized. I feel very responsible to represent the county well and my school and I am really grateful for this opportunity.”

Newton County School System Superintendent Samantha Fuhrey, school board members Shakila Henderson-Baker, Abigail Coggin and Trey Bailey, and several central office staff members surprised each of the teachers with flowers and balloons at their schools on Thursday, Sept. 22, to make the special announcement that they were finalists for the award. Family members of the teachers were also included in the surprise visits.

Fuhrey said, “It always gives me great pleasure to recognize and honor our outstanding teachers of the year."

“To have been selected as one of the top three candidates is certainly an exceptional honor. Congratulations to each of these extraordinary educators! Individually and collectively, they represent all that is special with regard to teaching and learning. I am proud of their dedication, expertise, and creativity, as each of them impact their students far greater than they know.”

All 23 school-level Teachers of the Year will be recognized at the Oct. 6 reception at Newton High School and presented with a commemorative plaque from the Coca-Cola Bottling Co. Each of the two runners-up will receive a crystal award from the Newton Chamber of Commerce. 

The 2022-2023 school-level Teachers of the Year included:

• East Newton Elementary: Blake Alexander

• Fairview Elementary: Lisa Allgood

• Flint Hill Elementary: Juli-ette Goldston

• Heard-Mixon Elementary: Angie Craver

• Live Oak Elementary: Simone Lawrence

• Livingston Elementary: Shameka Smith

• Mansfield Elementary: Becky Smallwood

• Middle Ridge Elementary: Stacy Jaime

• Newton County Theme School: Amanda Kirkham

• Oak Hill Elementary: Ana Escorza

• Porterdale Elementary: Taya Combs

• Rocky Plains Elementary: Jill Rodriguez

• South Salem Elementary: Brenda Shepherd

• West Newton Elementary: Tiffany Pinnock

• Clements Middle: Tomeka Daugherty

• Cousins Middle: Tawanna Griffin

• Indian Creek Middle: Adrian Stone

• Liberty Middle: Nicole Foster

• Veterans Memorial Middle: Tonique Robinson

• Alcovy High: Bobby Maddox

• Eastside High: Kayla Stoddard

• Newton High: Demetrice Perry-Stokes

• Newton College & Career Academy: Laura Lambert.

The 2023 Newton County Teacher of the Year will receive a crystal award and check for $1,000 from the Chamber of Commerce. 

Newton County School System will also provide a monetary award for each of the school system’s 23 Teachers of the Year. 

Newton County’s Teacher of the Year program would not be possible without the support of the community, a news release stated. 

The school system and Chamber would like to extend special thanks to the “Chamber Champions” — sponsors of the 2023 Teacher of the Year program — including Truist Bank; Covington Ford; Edgar Law Firm; Ginn Motor Co.; Georgia Piedmont Technical College; Hargray; Main Street Land & Properties; Newton College & Career Academy; Nisshinbo Automotive; Qualified Staffing; Sunbelt Builders Inc.; The Center (Newton County Tomorrow); Bridgestone Golf; Covington Newspaper; High Priority Plumbing; Newton County IDA; Newton County Water & Sewer; Northside; SKC Inc.; BD; General Mills; Keenan Media; Meta; Newton County; Newton Federal Bank; Piedmont Newton; Snapping Shoals EMC; United Bank of Covington; Universal Planning & Development; Abbey Hospice; AT&T; Beaver Manufacturing; city of Covington; Dualdeko; MAU Workforce Solutions; Emory Oxford College; Pinnacle Bank; SteelCo; Synovus; Takeda; and Tread Technologies (Michelin).

For more information on the Teacher of the Year program, contact Sherri Partee, director of Public Relations for Newton County Schools, at