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Teacher of the year finalists announced

COVINGTON, Ga. - The Newton County School System (NCSS) and the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce are pleased to announce the top three finalists for Newton County’s 2017 Teacher of the Year award.                                                                                                                   

After reading essays submitted by each of the school system’s 23 Teachers of the Year, a panel of judges spent two days interviewing each of the teachers. The three candidates earning the highest point totals and thus entering the final round of the judging are, in alphabetical order: Ms. Heather Henderson, Newton College & Career Academy; Mr. Joel Singleton, Eastside High School; and Ms. Sharonda Tarplin, Cousins Middle School. 

NCSS Superintendent Samantha Fuhrey and other central office administrators surprised each of the finalists with flowers and balloons in their classrooms today to make the special announcement that 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. 26, the Teacher of the Year selection committee will observe each of the three finalists in their classroom and the teacher with the highest combined score on the essay, interview, and observation will be announced as the 2018 Newton County Teacher of the Year during a special ceremony at Newton High School on Thursday, Oct. 5 at 4:45 p.m. 

In Alphabetical Order:

Ms. Heather Henderson, Newton College & Career Academy
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Ms. Heather Henderson

Ms. Heather Henderson is a history and government teacher at Newton College & Career Academy. She previously taught world and U.S. history at Alcovy High School from 2010 to 2013 and social studies at Indian Creek Middle School from 2007 to 2010. Ms. Henderson earned her bachelor of art in history from Agnes Scott College in 2005 and her master of arts in curriculum and instruction from Central Michigan University in 2007. She is also certified to teach gifted education.

“It’s humbling just to be nominated by my peers and colleagues,” Henderson said upon learning that she was a finalist for Newton County Teacher of the Year. “To make it to one of the top three, I’m just extremely honored.” 

Mr. Joel Singleton, Eastside High School

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Mr. Joel Singleton

Mr. Joel Singleton teaches chorus, Advanced Placement music theory, and teaching as a profession at Eastside High School. Before joining the faculty at Eastside High School in 2007, Mr. Singleton taught music and chorus in Griffin-Spaulding County and Rockdale County School Systems. He earned his bachelor’s degree in music education from Georgia College in 2000 and his master’s degree in music education/conducting from Columbus State in 2001. Mr. Singleton completed all requirements for an education specialist degree in music-curriculum and teaching from Auburn University in 2007.

“This is definitely a surprise,” Singleton said after being informed he was a finalist for Newton County Teacher of the Year. “I’m very honored and very, very humbled. It’s exciting to know that someone else thinks I’m doing a good job.”

Ms. Sharonda Tarplin, Cousins Middle School

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Ms. Sharonda Tarplin

Ms. Sharonda Tarplin is a seventh-grade math teacher at Cousins Middle School. Prior to joining the Cousins Middle School faculty in 2015, Ms. Tarplin taught math at Conyers Middle School. Ms. Tarplin earned her bachelor’s and master’s degree in middle grades math/English language arts from Georgia Southern in 2010 and 2011 respectively. She is currently working on her education specialist degree in curriculum and instruction at Kennesaw State University.

“I am honored and taken aback and surprised,” Tarplin said when she was informed she was a finalist for Newton County Teacher of the Year. “It just is a great feeling to know that I’ve had such a great impact and that what I’m doing other people are recognizing.”

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

Newton County’s Teacher of the Year program would not be possible if it were not for the support of our community. As a result, the NCSS and the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce would like to extend special thanks to the Chamber Champions, sponsors of the 2018 Teacher of the Year program: Ginn Motors, Newton Federal Bank, Piedmont Newton Hospital, Snapping Shoals EMC, Alcovy Media, Covington News, General Mills, AT&T, Bank of North Georgia, Baxalta, Georgia Power, Great Estates Landscaping, McMichael’s Construction, Newton County Water and Sewerage Authority, Pinnacle Bank, SKC Inc., TPA Realty Services, United Bank, Wagner Service Solutions, Bard, BB&T, Beaver Manufacturing, Bridgestone Golf, Georgia Connector, Newton College & Career Academy, Newton Citizen, Sunbelt Builders, The Center, and Tread Technologies Company.

For more information on the NCSS Teacher of the Year program, contact Ms. Sherri Davis-Viniard, Director of Public Relations for Newton County Schools at