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Teachers of the Year finalists named
Samantha Swaney of Heritage High learns she is a finalist for Rockdale County Public Schools Teacher of the Year. - photo by Darrell Everidge

What three Rockdale County public school teachers thought was a strange change of pace that could mean trouble turned out to be a "huge honor," as they found out they were countywide finalists for Teacher of the Year.

Superintendent Richard Autry, along with several school board members and Central Office staff, surprised each of the teachers at their respective schools Friday morning to personally tell them the big news.

The finalists were English teacher Samantha Hudgens Swaney, who teaches at Heritage High School; Dr. April Roberts, who teaches English to Speakers of Other Languages at Edwards Middle School; and Kim Manget, who teaches math at Hightower Trail Elementary School.

Officials' first stop was Heritage High School to see English teacher Samantha Hudgens Swaney. Swaney was in the middle of giving students a test when she got a knock on her door and Superintendent Autry apologized for interrupting.

Swaney gasped when she learned the reason for the interruption.

"Oh, wow, what a huge honor," Swaney said. "I'm trying not to cry."

After offering a lot of thanks, Swaney later said she was "blown away," and felt "like a superstar."

"You just made my day in such a huge way," Swaney said to officials.

School leaders had to call in Edwards Middle School teacher Dr. April Roberts from home in order to have the teacher present for her surprise announcement. Dr. Roberts was sitting in the school's front office when Superintendent Autry presented her with the announcement.

Office staff let out cheers after the announcement.

Dr. Roberts was all smiles while holding her flowers. She told the crowd that being called in on her day off made her think "something was wrong."

"Well, I'm glad things turned out for the positive," Superintendent Autry joked.

Hightower Trail Elementary School fifth grade students were in the middle of an honors program when Superintendent Autry met teacher Kim Manget on stage.

Cheers and applause echoed through the cafeteria from students, teachers, and parents, as Manget accepted the flowers and hugged Superintendent Autry.

After a round of hugs from school board members, the 26-year veteran teacher told the News that being a teacher of the year finalist was not something she specifically worked toward.

"But I do try everyday to do my best here at this school to help our children and I am honored," Manget said.

The recognition is nice, according to Manget, but the humble teacher said it is not the reason why she teaches.

"We do it every day for these kids," Manget said.

She was eager to get back to her classroom after the announcement, saying she missed a couple classes because she was called to help in the students' honors program.

Little did she know that she was called because she would be receiving an honor, too.

"I did not expect this," Manget said with a grin. "They really pulled one over on me."

Of the three finalists, school officials will announce the Teacher of the Year during a celebration 6 p.m. Nov. 18 at Rockdale Career Academy.