An Isaac Bear Early College High School teacher in North Carolina was arrested Tuesday for sexually exploiting multiple students, a joint investigation conducted by the FBI and the sheriff’s office found.

Michael Kelly, 48, was charged with third-degree sexual exploitation of a minor and three counts of indecent liberties with a student, following allegations that he had sent pornographic images to five minor students at his high school, NBC affiliate WECT reported. 

Kelly, who teaches science at the Isaac Bear high school, was the named “Teacher of the Year” in 2016. School’s spokeswoman Valita Quattlebaum said Kelly was suspended without pay by New Hanover County Schools Superintendent Dr. Tim Markley.

According to New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Lt. Jerry Brewer, an investigation was opened up on Kelly, after FBI got in touch with the local law enforcement following a report of the teacher’s inappropriate involvement with a juvenile victim. The victim’s phone contained pornographic texts from Kelly.

The police found that Kelly was in possession of a pornographic image of a 15-year-old student where he is seen "engaging in sexual activity consisting of holding his erect penis in his hand." Kelly also "did feloniously take indecent liberties” with the boy between August 2016 and February 2017.

Kelly made his first court appearance Wednesday afternoon, during which Assistant District Attorney Connie Jordan said: “The defendant has admitted ... to at least one felony with one of the children with which he is about to be charged but has not yet (been charged).”

When Judge gave Kelly an opportunity to address the court before he made a decision, the teacher said: “I've done a lot of good work in the school system and I made some bad choices."

Although the prosecution had urged the judge to raise Kelly’s bail amount to two million, the latter opted to set it at a million. The judge also made it clear that Kelly was not to contact any of his victims or their families, be in presence of or communicate with minors and visit any of the school properties.

MaryPaul Beall, the principal of the high school, assured parents the institution was looking into the matter and encouraged them to cooperate with the police.

“I regret to inform you that today, we have been notified by the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office about some serious charges resulting in the arrest of Mr. Michael Kelly, a science teacher here at Isaac Bear,” Beall wrote in a letter to the parents. “We are shocked and deeply saddened by these allegations.”

“Mr. Kelly is currently suspended from his duties at IBECHS,” the letter added. “We are committed to the safety of our students and expect all staff to adhere to the highest ethical practices and conduct. Should you be contacted by any law enforcement agencies, I encourage you to also cooperate with them in this investigation.”

The principal also stated in the letter that district's Crisis Response Team of counselors will be available to provide support for the students and staff of the school during the stressful time.

Markley said that school authorities were fully cooperating with the police.

"While we can't discuss the specifics of this case at this time, we take these allegations very seriously," Markley said. "Our primary concern is the safety and protection of the students. We will take all steps necessary to ensure this."