The Newton County School System held their annual Teacher of the Year reception Thursday evening and announced that Heard-Mixon Elementary School fourth grade teacher Melanie Sheets has been chosen as Newton County’s TOTY for 2010.
As the auditorium erupted in applause, Sheets buried her face in her hands and wept, as runners-up Laurie Carpenter and Gail Bemis congratulated her.
Sheets, a former music teacher at Princeton University, decided that while she loved teaching, she missed Georgia and wanted to come home. She wrote in her professional biography, "After searching unsuccessfully for a similar position in Georgia, I decided to try a different kind of teaching.
"I was infatuated with the idea of wearing beautiful clothes and sitting behind a desk. I moved to Atlanta and began working for Macy’s in human resources and employee training. I told myself that ‘teaching is teaching’ and tried to find fulfillment in long hours of training adults to sell merchandise and run a cash register… I learned that wearing nice clothes could not replace the fulfillment I found in teaching children."
Sheets remembered that on her first day of teaching kindergarten a child threw up on her feet in the cafeteria, but that didn’t stop her love for the profession or the feeling that she had made the right decision.
"Even an unpleasant event on my first day could not ruin the joy I felt on being in a school environment," she said. "I knew that I was in the right place, and I have never looked back. Now I believe that my teaching clothes are beautiful clothes."
Joe Stier, board chair for the Newton County Chamber of Commerce congratulated all the teachers who were nominated, saying "education is the key to our future. Our future leaders are sitting in classrooms today," he said, calling the 23 TOTY’s "the best of the best."
One of Sheets’ students, 10-year-old Robert Thompson said that he was excited when her name was called as the
"She’s a really good teacher," he said. "She teaches very thoroughly and she’s very helpful."
Heard-Mixon Principal Lee Peck said that he was so happy for Sheets that he was at a loss for words.
"How could you be more proud?" he asked. "She teaches from the heart. She’s one of the best natural teachers I have ever seen and I am just so thrilled for her."
As Sheets approached the podium to give her acceptance speech she joked, "no one said anything about a speech." She congratulated the other 22 teachers on the stage and thanked her school and the administrators there, her family and her students "they make it easy to go to work… most days," she joked.
"I’m very honored," she said. "I look forward to the year ahead. I have no idea what’s in store for me, but I’m ready for it."