“I believe good teachers leave a lasting influence on their students,” Newell said. “Hopefully, the lessons taught will stick with the students, but most of all, I hope my students see my work ethic, character, and love of learning/teaching and develop some of the same characteristics that will stick with them throughout their adult lives.”
An Alabama native, Newell moved to Tuscaloosa to attend the University of Alabama, and he has been teaching here ever since. He started at Northport’s Lloyd Wood Middle School before moving to his current position at Sipsey Valley Middle and High Schools when they opened in 2010.
“I teach 40-50 students in each class, for a total of over 210 students a day,” Newell said. “Having classes that are so large, it is very important to be able to maintain order in the classroom; however, I think the biggest lesson I have learned is that ‘You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar.’ I believe students respond better to teachers who are firm and fair, and who try to remain positive and encouraging.”
One of the many influences on Newell’s teaching is his inspiration, Mandy Harvey, the deaf singer who recently finished fourth on America’s Got Talent. Harvey, who has always had a love of music, also grew up aspiring to be a choir director, before losing her hearing as a young adult. After teaching herself special techniques for keeping on beat and staying in tune, she went on to find great success. Newell, who remains in awe of Harvey’s resilience and hope in the face of great hardships, has followed her story, and he shares that inspiration with his students.
“Primarily, I hope my students develop a love for music, an appreciation of a wide variety of music, and that they recognize the importance of music and the performing arts in a diverse, culturally rich society,” Newell said.
Newell’s positive spirit and teaching style make the perfect environment for his students to thrive. During his time at Lloyd Wood, his students won scholarships and received a superior rating from the State Choral Performance Assessment. His students have also participated in Alabama All-State Choir, The University of Alabama Honor Choir, and Tuscaloosa All-County Choir.
“All people can learn new things, especially hobbies, and learning new things helps to keep you active, relevant, and your mind sharp,” Newell said. “I try to convey these ideas to my students by living them personally. I hope my students see me learning and implementing new instructional strategies and incorporating new and emerging technologies into my lessons and into our classroom.”