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LBC math teacher is Teacher of the Year; school district also names first principal and classified employee of the year

April 28, 2017 GMT

The Aiken County School District shone the spotlight on its stars of public education Thursday, honoring its teacher, principal and classified employee winners for 2017-18.

Patrick Newsome, who teaches mathematics at Langley-Bath-Clearwater Middle School in Bath, received the Teacher of the Year award. South Aiken High Principal Jill Jett received the district’s first Principal of the Year award. Rose Puckett, an administrative assistant for the Division of Administration/Superintendent and Board of Education, received the second Giving Even More award for classified employees.

Newsome, who has taught for eight years, said he always wanted to please his “grandpa,” Franklin Wilson, and he knows he would be especially pleased with his being named Teacher of the Year.

“He’s been my role model,” Newsome said. “He passed away last March. I’d give anything to have him here, but I think sometimes God lets people look down and see awesome things that happen.”

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Wilson inspired his grandson to go back to school after he had dropped out of college. Newsome worked construction with his grandfather from the time he was 15 and going through high school at Silver Bluff. Wilson wanted him to take over his business.

“It hit us one hot summer in July,” Newsome said. “We were on a roof, and he knew that I liked working with kids because I did it at church. And he said, ‘Wouldn’t you make a really good school teacher.’

“He knew how hot it was. We were both sweating to death, and he said, ‘You need to go back to school.’ He inspired me to go back, and I haven’t looked back since.”

In addition to sixth- and seventh-grade math and pre-algebra, Newsome teaches a semester-long ProTeam class, a middle school version of the Teacher Cadet program.

“It gets students prepared for the idea of going into education,” Newsome said.

Newsome said he loves teaching math and “making it come alive” for his students, but the ProTeam class drives his passion for education.

“That’s probably the greatest highlight of teaching for me,” Newsome said. “You get to see leadership development. It’s phenomenal to see those kids. I’m excited to see them.”

Jett said she is proud and a little “overwhelmed and heart-warmed” to be named the district’s first Principal of the Year, but she added she needs to remember that she represents not only Aiken County but her family.

Jett was the first person in her family to go to college, and although her father and grandparents were not always supportive of her decision, she said, her mother always was.

“My mother helped me put my college applications together,” Jett said. “She was proud of me when I became a teacher, and she would be so proud of me today. She died in 2006, but she would be right here with me if she could.”

Jett said she is proud, too, to be part of a profession in which people “spend their entire lives working for children.”

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“We have to carry that torch for all the children of Aiken County,” she said.

Puckett said she gets to come to work every day and do what she loves.

“Not too many people can go home and say, thank goodness, I had the opportunity to be part of something that’s bigger than I am,” she said. “I come to work every day and do my best. I try to listen with empathy and compassion because that’s how I want to be treated.”

Puckett carries that empathy and caring beyond her professional life. For nine years, she has volunteered with the Life Hurts, God Heals program at Cedar Creek Church, working with Aiken County Public School students who might be facing family problems, extreme shyness, difficulty at school or other issues.

“Even though I’m not with students in the classroom, I still have an opportunity to help shape and mold them,” Puckett said.

Puckett said she is extremely proud to receive the Giving Even More award but added the honor is not about her, it’s the mark she will leave behind.

“My mom used to say it’s not about the year you were born, honey, and it won’t be about the year God takes you home. It’s that dash in the middle. So, I thank Aiken County Public Schools for helping me add to my dash,” she said.