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Eastside High School’s Ashley Rickard is Newton County School System’s 2014 Teacher of the Year! She will now represent Newton County Schools in the Georgia Teacher of the Year Program. Her prizes included $1,000 cash, a crystal vase, three-month’s free car rental from Covington Ford, and one dozen red roses.

Newton County Chamber of Commerce president Hunter Hall announced Ms. Rickard the winner today during a special ceremony at Newton High School. Ms. Maria Hargrove of Heard-Mixon Elementary and Ms. Dolores Williams of the Newton College & Career Academy were both runners up. Both Hargrove and Williams each won a crystal vase for the special honor.

Ms. 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.

In her Teacher of the Year essay packet, Ms. Rickard wrote, “I want my students to have enough self-awareness to recognize their formula for success.  I hunger for them to understand that they are the sole holders of the keys to their future....the very foundation of my students’ success is their ability and their courage to be independent thinkers. I am genuinely overwhelmed with immense gratification knowing that I play just a small part in teaching my students how to think.”

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!

Newton County’s Teacher of the Year program would not be possible if it were not for the support of the Newton County 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.