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October 6, 2017


 (L-R): Matt Crowe, Covington Ford; Ms. Samantha Fuhrey, NCSS Superintendent; Mr. Jason Smith, NCSS 2017 Teacher of the Year; and Mr. Ralph Staffins, president, Newton County Chamber of Commerce.

Newton High School band instructor, Jason Smith, is Newton County School System’s 2017 Teacher of the Year! He will now represent Newton County Schools in the Georgia Teacher of the Year Program. Mr. Smith’s prizes included $1,000 cash and a crystal vase from the Newton County Chamber of Commerce and three-month’s free car rental from Covington Ford.

Ms. Tanahia Benton of Liberty Middle School and Ms. Cecily Bullock of Alcovy High School were this year’s runners up. They each received a crystal vase award from the Newton County Chamber of Commerce.

“The past two weeks have been tough,” said Smith, whose mother passed away the day the top three finalists for NCSS Teacher of the Year were announced. “I’m so glad that my sister was able to come on out and celebrate this time with me but lord knows it’s been hard. I just want to thank everyone who’s been keeping us and my family in their thoughts and prayers. I’m at a loss for words, I really am. Thank you to my family and to my wife, oh my goodness—all the accolades, the Teacher of the Year and everything—this is not my award, this is everybody else’s who have supported me, and she has been my number one supporter, from day one. She allows me to be up here all the way until 8 or 9 o’clock at night. She allows me to be at the football games on Friday night. She allows me to travel and expose the kids to things that they might not have seen before. We have two beautiful boys in our family and she holds it down and I really can’t thank her enough.”

Smith then praised Newton High School principal John Ellenberg as the best principal he has ever worked for and thanked the band parents who have provided continued support for the program.

Choking back tears, he closed with, “To my mom—I miss you momma. I love you, I miss you, and I hope I made you proud.”

Mr. Smith began his teaching career at Stephenson High School in DeKalb County Schools in 2005 before joining Newton County School System as the band instructor at Newton High School in 2009. He has been teaching at Newton High School ever since. Mr. Smith is a member of the Georgia Music Educators Association, the Georgia Association of Jazz Educators, the National Association for Music Educators, and Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity of America. He was recently named a quarterfinalist for the 2017 Grammy Foundation Educator Award that recognizes current educators who have made a significant and lasting contribution to the field of music education and who demonstrate a commitment to the broader cause of maintaining music education in the schools.

Mr. Smith is a very active volunteer for the Walk of Heroes Veterans War Memorial in Conyers, Georgia, where he serves as the unofficial bugler to play “Taps,” for all Walk of Heroes programs. He also supports the Arts Association of Newton County and last year assisted the organization with their gala to raise funds for the local hospital.

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 Newton County School System and the Newton County Chamber of Commerce would like to extend special thanks to the Chamber Champions, sponsors of the 2017 Teacher of the Year program: AT&T; Bank of North Georgia; Baxalta; BB&T; Beaver Manufacturing; Bridgestone Golf; C.R. Bard; Covington News; General Mills; Georgia Power Company; Ginn Motor Company; Great Estates; Newton Water and Sewer; Newton College & Career Academy; Newton Citizen; Newton Federal Bank; Pattillo Industrial Real Estate; Piedmont Newton Hospital; Pinnacle Bank; Pratt Recycling; SKC, Inc.; Snapping Shoals EMC; Sunbelt Builders, Inc.; The Center; Thomas and Hutton; TPA Realty Services; Tread Technologies (Michelin); United Bank of Covington; and Wagner Service Solutions.

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