A North Forsyth Middle School speech-language pathologist has been announced as a finalist in the 2019 Georgia Teacher of the Year competition.
According to a news release by the Georgia Department of Education, Maleah Stewart and nine other finalists were chosen Tuesday from a pool of 150 other applicants from across the state.
"It feels like I’m on a roller coaster, my emotions are all over the place,” Stewart said. “I go from intense jump-out-of-my-chair excitement to feeling intense panic from that fear of venturing outside of my comfort zone, so much more than I have ever dared to go.”
Stewart joined Forsyth County Schools in 2006 and has spent the last three-and-a-half years at North Middle where she teaches students with special needs. She was recognized as the Forsyth County 2017 Teacher of the Year at the annual Celebration of Excellence event held in March 2017.
The release states that each applicant was previously selected as teacher of the year by their district, and these finalists were chosen after scrutiny by a panel of judges and judgement on “the strength of their essay responses” in their applications.
Other finalists include;
- Shaylen Dixon, third grade, Peachtree City Elementary School, Fayette County Schools;
- Dr. Doug Doblar, fourth and fifth grade mathematics and science, R.D. Head Elementary School, Gwinnett County Schools;
- Allison Kerley, third grade, Barnwell Elementary School, Fulton County Schools;
- Dr. Stefan Lawrence, English, George Washington Carver High School, Muscogee County Schools;
- Nancy Rogers, English, Thomas County Middle School, Thomas County Schools;
- Ike Thompson, English/gifted, Veterans High School, Houston County Schools;
- Melanie Thompson, science, Georgia Academy for the Blind, State Schools;
- Stephanie Vidrine, mathematics, Woodstock Middle School, Cherokee County Schools;
- Kayla Yeargin, mathematics, Troup High School, Troup County Schools.
The release stated that 2019 finalists met with judges for a formal interview and a speech on April 16, and a decision on the statewide winner will be announced on May 19.
Stewart said that she was terrified after her interviews on Monday until she remembered all the support she has gotten from family friends and the community at large.
"The official press release had not come out yet so I couldn't tell anyone, and I just felt very alone … all of a sudden it was just like this warmth came over me and I was like, 'it’s OK,’” Stewart said. “I felt embraced by my community, by my school, even though no one knew.”
According to North Forsyth Middle School Principal Todd McClelland, what sets Stewart apart from other teachers is her love for her kids and her ability to solve problems.
“Anyone who has ever worked alongside Maleah would tell you that her greatest strength is her love of kids, and her second greatest strength is her problem-solving ability,” McClelland said. “I am not sure that she has ever met a problem that she couldn’t solve, and her passion for her profession and her students gives her all the energy she needs to solve problems big and small.
“Maleah is an amazing representative of Forsyth County Schools, but more importantly, she is a phenomenal reflection on education as a whole.”