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 The Newton County School System and the Newton County Chamber of Commerce are pleased to announce the top three finalists for Newton County’s 2014 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. Maria Hargrove, Heard-Mixon Elementary School; Ms. Ashley Rickard, Eastside High School; and Ms. Dolores Williams, Newton College and Career Academy.  On Tuesday, September 17, 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 2014 Teacher of the Year during a special ceremony at Newton High School on Thursday, September 26 at 4:45 p.m.

This morning, Newton County School System Superintendent Samantha Fuhrey, Deputy Superintendent Dr. Craig Lockhart, other central office administrators and school board chair Abigail Coggin and Vice-Chair Shakila Henderson Baker surprised each of the finalists with flowers and balloons in their classrooms to make the special announcement to the teachers that they were one of the top three finalists. Friends and family members of the three finalists were also invited to join in on the surprise visits.

In Alphabetical Order:



Ms. Maria Hargrove began her teaching career at Heard-Mixon Elementary School in 2005 and has been teaching there ever since. She began as a kindergarten teacher but now teaches third grade.

Ms. Hargrove earned her Bachelors in Early Childhood Education from the University of Georgia in 2004 and her Masters in Early Childhood Education from Piedmont College in 2005. She later obtained an Education Specialist degree from Georgia College in 2008. Ms. Hargrove will begin her doctoral program in Curriculum Studies at Georgia Southern next summer. She is a member of both the Professional Association of Georgia Educators and the Georgia Association of Educators. She has attended numerous education workshops, worked with several student teachers; and aided in curriculum mapping, adopting textbooks, developing benchmark assessments, and laying out parts of the Reading/ELA  and Math curriculum to ensure academic excellence for the Newton County School System.  Ms. Hargrove is currently working on obtaining her math endorsement and is in fact the Kindergarten-Fifth grade Math Specialist for Newton County Schools.  

In addition to her work, Ms. Hargrove is an active member of the Newton County community. Since high school she has been an actively involved member of Eastridge Community Church, where she has led several small groups, volunteered for Vacation Bible School; collected food for local food shelters, and participated in campaigns in support of the Refuge Pregnancy Center; the Samaritan’s Purse, and Angel Tree. An avid runner, Ms. Hargrove also participates in several races in which proceeds are earmarked for charitable events, including the Covington Fuzz Run, the Cheerios Challenge, and of course, the Peachtree. She also offers free after-school tutoring, summer tutoring for students, and can often be seen at students’ games and extracurricular activities.



Ms. Ashley Rickard has spent her entire teaching career in Newton County Schools. She began her career at Eastside High School in 2009 and has been teaching Advanced Placement English Language and Composition there ever since.

Ms. Rickard earned her Bachelors in Secondary English Education from Georgia Southern in 2008 and should receive her Masters in Instructional Technology from the University of West Georgia next year.  She has also completed her Gifted Endorsement, which certifies her to teach gifted students, and led to her being named Gifted Coordinator at Eastside. In addition to serving as a support person for other teachers seeking Gifted certification, Ms. Rickard also serves as a Technology Teacher Leader.

Ms. Rickard is a true believer in community service, both where she lives and where she works. She is an active member of Athens Church in Clarke County, where both she and her husband serve as Sunday school teachers for young children. As a result of her church’s initiative encouraging members to use their gifts and talents to serve others in Athens, last year Ms. Rickard taught a free GED course at the Athens Latino Center for Education and Services. She also encourages her students to get involved in their community and last year, their generosity raised $1,300 for the American Cancer Society.  Ms. Rickard also created a Random Acts of Kindness initiative at Eastside, which encouraged students to photograph themselves or others practicing Random Acts of Kindness in their school or community. They would then share the photographs by tweeting them to their Twitter account or by posting them on the class bulletin board. The students each determined their individual quotas for the number of Random Acts of Kindness they would perform in a given time period but they soon lost track of the actual “kindness count” after surpassing 600 Random Acts last fall!



Ms. Dolores Williams began her career in education in Newton County in 1998 and has remained in the district ever since. She started her career at Newton High School as a paraprofessional in 1998 and the following year she taught Pre-Algebra and Algebra at the school. She transferred to Alcovy High School in 2006 before making the move to the Newton College and Career Academy in 2010. Ms. Williams currently teaches Pre-Calculus, AP Statistics, and AP Calculus.

Ms. Williams earned her Bachelors in Computer Science from Mercer University in 1997 and her Masters in Teaching Secondary Math from Piedmont College in 2000. She obtained an Education Specialist degree in Instructional Technology from Valdosta State in 2006. She also has additional certifications as a Teacher Support Specialist, ESOL (English Speakers of Other Languages), and Gifted. Ms. Williams is a member of both the Georgia Teachers of Mathematics and the National Teachers of Mathematics.

Community involvement is very important to Ms. Williams and she truly believes her calling is to offer tutoring help to those in need.  She has also been actively involved in church over the years by serving as a Sunday school teacher, working with youth groups, and even singing in church choirs. Ms. Williams has volunteered in helping prepare food to feed the poor and also hosted an exchange student from Germany.  

The Newton County School System would like to congratulate each of the Teachers of the Year, as they are all worthy of this special honor. As such, all 23 Teachers of the Year will be recognized at the NCSS Teacher of the Year Reception at Newton High School on September 26 at 4:45 p.m. Each of the district’s three finalists will receive crystal vase awards. The 2014 Newton County Teacher of the Year will also receive one dozen roses, three months free car rental from Covington Ford, and a check for $1,000 from the Newton County Chamber of Commerce. In addition, this year’s winner will also represent Newton County School System in the Georgia Teacher of the Year competition.

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 2014 Teacher of the Year program: Bridgestone Golf; CPI: Contract Packaging Inc.; General Mills; Ginn Motor Company; Snapping Shoals EMC; Apollo Staffing; Bank of North Georgia; BB&T; Current Events Productions; Georgia Power; Newton Federal Bank; Newton Medical Center; Pattillo; SKC, Inc.; TPA Realty Services; United Bank of Covington; Vestar Technologies; AT&T; Baxter; Beaver Manufacturing; Choate Construction; Georgia Perimeter College; Honda of Conyers; Michelin; Newton Citizen; Pinnacle Bank; Potts Construction; ProLogistix; Sunbelt Builders; and Triple Horse.

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 770-784-2908.