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Newton schools name finalists for Teacher of the Year
Elementary, middle and high school teachers chosen to compete for school system award
Three finalists
The three finalists for Teacher of the Year were, from left, Samantha Greco, Clayton Hammonds and DeAnna O'Brien. - photo by Courtesy of the Newton County School System

COVINGTON, Ga. — Samantha Greco of West Newton Elementary, Clayton Hammonds of Veterans Memorial Middle and DeAnna O’Brien of Eastside High were named finalists today for Newton County School System Teacher of the Year. 

The selections were made by a panel of judges that spent two days interviewing each each of the 23 school-level Teachers of the Year and reading essays submitted by them. 

The three candidates earning the highest point totals were named finalists.

Newton County School System Superintendent Samantha Fuhrey surprised each of the finalists with flowers and balloons at their respective schools Thursday, Sept. 16, to tell them they were finalists for Newton County Teacher of the Year. Family members of the teachers were also included in the surprise visits.

On Tuesday, Sept. 21, the Teacher of the Year selection committee will observe each finalist teach in their classrooms. The person with the highest combined score on the essay, interview, and observation will be announced as the 2022 Newton County Teacher of the Year during a ceremony at Newton High School on Sept. 30 at 4:45 p.m.

Finalists include:

• Samantha Greco, a fifth-grade teacher at West Newton Elementary School. She began her career as a teacher at West Newton in 2007 and has been teaching fourth and fifth grade at the school ever since. 

Greco earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish from the Defense Language Institute in 1998 and her Bachelor of Arts degree in Biblical Education from Beaulah Heights University in 2007. Greco also holds a gifted endorsement. 

“Being named a finalist for Teacher of the Year is an honor,” Greco said. 

“I have loved and lived in Newton County for years. I have been here in the county school system for almost 15 years. 

"To be able to represent Newton County is an honor because these are our future leaders. To be able to pour into them on a daily basis is a dream and Newton County has offered that opportunity to me for the last 15 years.” 

• Clayton Hammonds is a sixth-grade science teacher at Veterans Memorial Middle School. He joined the Newton County School System team in 2018 at Veterans Memorial and has been teaching science at the school ever since. 

He previously taught at Valdosta Middle School for one year.

Hammonds earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Middle Grades Education from Valdosta State in 2017 and his Master in Education degree from Walden University in 2019. He is on track to earn his Education Specialist in Teacher Leadership from Thomas University in 2023.

“I am speechless,” said Hammonds when he was informed that he was a finalist for Teacher of the Year. “I think it’s amazing and it’s an honor and I feel honored. I just come in here and do what I do. I didn’t really think people were noticing but apparently they do. I just have no words.” 

• DeAnna O’Brien is a special education teacher at Eastside High School. She previously taught in both the Morgan County and Rockdale County school systems.

O’Brien also taught hospital bound patients with traumatic brain injuries at Scottish Rite Children’s Hospital. 

She earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Special Education from Georgia Southern University in 1995 and is currently working on her Master’s in Education degree from the same institution. 

“I just want to say how honored I am to be selected as a finalist for Newton County School System’s Teacher of the Year,” said O’Brien. 

“The people that I work with here at Eastside and all of my fellow teachers here in Newton County are amazing, amazing teachers and I just want to say thank you for recognizing the work that we all do and thank you for recognizing the successes of our students because that is what makes all of us teachers of the year.” 

Samantha Fuhrey, superintendent of Newton County School System, 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,” Fuhrey said.

Newton County’s Teacher of the Year program would not be possible without the support of the community. 

As a result, the Newton County School System and the Newton County Chamber of Commerce gives special thanks to the Chamber Champions, sponsors of the 2022 Teacher of the Year program; Abbey Hospice; AT&T; BB&T; Beaver Manufacturing; Bridgestone Golf; BD; City of Covington; Covington Ford; The Covington News; Facebook; General Mills; GPTC; Ginn Motor Company; High Priority Plumbing; MAU; Newton County Government; Newton Federal Bank; Newton County Water & Sewer; Nisshinbo Automotive; Northside; Oxford College; Piedmont Newton; Pinnacle Bank; Qualified Staffing; SKC, Inc.; Snapping Shoals EMC; SteelCo; Sunbelt Builders, Inc.; Synovus; Takeda; Tread Technologies (Michelin); United Bank of Covington; The Center; Newton College & Career Academy; Edgar Law Firm, and Newton County Industrial Development Authority.

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