NEWTON COUNTY – On Thursday, the Newton County School System (NCSS) and Newton County Chamber of Commerce announced their top three finalists for Newton County’s 2024 Teacher of the Year award.
Jenica Brittingham of Alcovy High School, Dr. Cecily Gunter of Newton College & Career Academy and Kimberly Ralston of Livingston Elementary School earned the three spots.
Candidates for county teacher of the year were narrowed down after essays were submitted and interviews were conducted by a panel of judges for each of the school system’s 23 teachers of the year. The aforementioned teachers earned the highest points in the preliminary round.
Interim superintendent Dr. Benjamin Roundtree, along with board of education members Shakila Henderson-Baker, Abigail Coggin, Trey Bailey and office staff traveled to each finalist’s school with balloons and flowers to surprise them with the news of their accomplishment. Family members of each candidate were also present.
Jenica Brittingham, theatre fine arts, Alcovy High
Jenica Brittingham has been teaching for 14 years and has spent her last five years as the theatre fine arts instructor at Alcovy High School. Prior to teaching in Newton County, Brittingham taught in Georgia’s Putnam County School System, in Illinois and taught honors English and theater in Shanghai, China.
She earned her bachelor’s in secondary English education and theatre from Millikin University and her master’s in theatre education from the University of Northern Colorado.
Brittingham expressed excitement and shock when learning of her status as a finalist.
“I’m honestly super, super surprised and shocked,” Brittingham said. “I wasn’t expecting this at all. It’s pretty amazing, incredible and exciting. It’s great to be named teacher of the year at Alcovy and now a finalist for Newton County.”
Dr. Cecily Gunter, vet and animal science, Newton College & Career Academy (NCCA)
Cecily Gunter has been teaching for 12 years in Newton County, with this year marking her seventh teaching agricultural education at NCCA. She spent her first five years teaching agriculture at Alcovy High School before joining the NCCA in 2017.
Gunter earned her bachelor’s in agricultural education from the University of Georgia and both her master’s in agriculture with an emphasis in education and her doctor of education degree in P20 education and community leadership from Murray State University. Additionally, Gunter is in the process of obtaining certifications in educational leadership and teacher leader endorsement.
Gunter considered her accomplishment to be honorable, noting other teachers in the county.
“This is a huge honor,” Gunter said. “I’m really excited. There’s a lot of really great ag teachers and regular teachers in the county and I’m just excited to represent the Career Academy and see what we can accomplish. I’m really excited about it.”
Kimberly Ralston, second grade, Livingston Elementary
Kimberly Ralson has been teaching for six years, spending her first two years in Rockdale County Public Schools before joining the NCSS at Livingston Elementary School in 2019.
Ralston received her bachelor’s in early childhood education from Georgia State University. She is also certified in both ESOL (English to Speakers of Other Languages) and gifted.
Ralson was “speechless” and “thankful” when being surprised in her classroom with the news.
“I’m shocked and I’m honored. It’s a grateful experience and I just hope to make everybody proud,” Ralston said. “It’s an honor because at this school, we have the most amazing teachers and just for them to recognize me and just know that every day we come here to make a difference [as] part of this amazing culture is something you can’t even put into words.”
The teacher of the year selection committee will observe each of the three finalists teach in their classrooms on Tuesday, Sept. 19. The candidate with the highest combined score on the essay, interview and observation will be announced as the 2024 Newton County Teacher of the Year during a special ceremony at Newton High School on Thursday, Sept. 28 at 4:45 p.m.
For more information on the Newton County School System Teacher of the Year program, contact director of public relations for Newton County Schools, Sherri Partee at email@example.com.