CONYERS —  Tiptoeing down the hallways, Rockdale County Public Schools administrators and Board of Education members made surprise classroom visits Tuesday morning to the three 2019-20 Teacher of the Year finalists.

School system officials made the first surprise visit to Rockdale County High School, where Reginald Jacobs wasn't sure what was going on.

Jacobs hugged Rockdale Board of Education Chairwoman Katrina McCollum Young and thanked Superintendent Dr. Terry Oatts for the honor.

"Thank you all for this recognition. I wouldn't be able to do what I do without all of you ... especially my students," said Jacobs.

Jacobs has been an educator for seven years. At RCHS, he serves as the Science Department chair as well as the boys basketball assistant coach.

In his biography Jacobs says his most rewarding career experience is seeing his students become passionate about their own learning and connecting to real-world issues.

After Conyers Middle School Principal Dr. Deborah Reese finished the morning announcements, she escorted RCPS special guests to eighth-grade math teacher Arlene McQueen's classroom.

As McQueen opened her classroom door she asked Dr. Reese, "What is going on?"

Dr. Oatts announced to her and her homeroom class that she had been selected as one of the finalists for Teacher of the Year.

McQueen expressed her awe as the room filled with applause.

She has been an educator for 15 years and has been at CMS for the past five. 

Prior to becoming a general education math teacher, McQueen was a special education teacher.  

"The 2019-20 school year will only be my third year as a general ed teacher," said McQueen in her biography. "I was a special education teacher for 13 years, and proud to be one. I have taught all subjects and grade levels in middle school as a collaborative, resourceful and self-contained educator.  I love working with students and helping them find strategies that will aide them in their educational success."

With tears in her eyes, Salem High School special education instructor Elizabeth  "Beth" Withers could not believe she had been selected as a finalist.

"I love what I do, and I am so grateful for this recognition," said Withers. "As a special education teacher, this is so rewarding and I thank you all for your support."

Withers has been an educator for 20 years and has spent the last nine in special education. 

Withers was also in the first graduating class at Heritage High School in 1979. She spent 18 years in banking before becoming a teacher in Rockdale County.

All instructors selected as Teacher of the Year will be honored at a ceremony on Tuesday, Sept. 17 at Rockdale Career Academy. 

One teacher will be selected to represent the county in the statewide TOTY program. The state banquet date and time are to be announced.