The auditorium burst into applause as East Newton fourth grade teacher Julie Thompson was named Newton County School System's 2013 Teacher of the Year; however, as in years past, Thompson accepted the award on behalf of not only herself, but her family, friends, co-workers and students.
"You are the reason I do what I do and that I love what I do," she said to her students, cheering from the audience. "These students make it a pleasure to come to work every day."
In the biography she completed for the competition, Thompson wrote she was fortunate to grow up in a home where education was valued and where her parents instilled a passion for knowledge and a desire to achieve. That value and thirst for knowledge didn't stop at home.
"I was nurtured by loving teachers who wove their lessons like a tapestry for me to explore," she wrote in her biography. In her acceptance speech, she also thanked two former teachers who were in attendance. She said they helped solidify the desire to become an educator.
"Last year my first group of student graduated high school. Over the years I have followed their progress through my involvement in the community. Still I was overwhelmed when I received that ‘first' graduation invitation. These young men and women were about to enter the ‘real' world, yet they remembered their third grade teacher and considered her to be a part of their success. I know my legacy, my greatest contribution, will not be seen today or tomorrow, but in the lives of my students as adults."
Thompson said she was shocked when her name was called, and as Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce President Hunter Hall read some of her essay.
"I never expected to be here today," she said. "This is not an award I have received by myself."
Last year's Teacher of the Year, Rothell Lewis Jr., also spoke to the assembled 22 women and one man nominated by their peers at each of the county's schools.
"It has been my profound pleasure to represent this great county," he said. "If I had 10,000 tongues I couldn't say thank you enough."
School system Superintendent Gary Mathews said Thompson would be an excellent representative for the county in the state competition and "just might win."
Thompson received a crystal vase, a plaque, three months of free car rentals from Covington Ford/Mercury, a gift basket from Kroger and a gift card for $500 and a check for $1,000. The two runners up, Whitney Jackson from Veterans Memorial Middle School and Kim Malcom from South Salem Elementary received vases, plaques, gift baskets and a $250 Kroger gift card.