Student-athletes are often rewarded for their achievements on the field. On Monday, four top students from area schools were recognized for their accomplishments in the classroom.

No golden trophies were handed out, but these students are STARs in their own right. They are part of the Student Teacher Achievement Recognition program, which focuses public attention on outstanding scholars and the teachers who have been most instrumental in their academic achievement.

“I’m always amazed at their (the students’) commitment,” said Juanita Edwards, president of the Kiwanis Club, which sponsored the STAR students and teachers at a luncheon at the Northwest Georgia Trade and Convention Center. “You’d think they’d be so serious all the time to be so accomplished. But it’s apparent they can keep on the lighter side of things.”

The statewide STAR program is coordinated by the Professional Association of Georgia Educators (PAGE) Foundation, a division of the state’s largest teachers union. Since 1958, the STAR program has honored more than 20,000 seniors from participating Georgia high schools. Those seniors, in turn, choose their STAR teachers to share in the recognition.

To obtain a STAR nomination, students must have the highest score in one administration of the new three-part Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) and be in the top 10 percent or top 10 students in their class.

Daniel Richardson of Dalton High School, son of Wayne and Connie Richardson, nominated Dalton AP (advanced placement) history teacher Susan Brigman as his STAR counterpart.

“I looked forward to going to her class every day. She’s probably the most intelligent, well-read and diverse teacher I know at Dalton High School. You could literally name almost any country, and she’s probably been there at one time or another,” Richardson said. “We’d ask her in class if she were a member of the CIA, and she’d just smile, so you could never really tell either way. She has a passion for history that’s infectious; if you’re in her class, you can’t help but catch some of it. She truly raised the bar academically.”

Brigman said to speak about Richardson is to talk about one of the most superior students she’s ever had.

“Daniel is the type of student you’d want to clone,” she said. “For him, even the most mundane assignments were ones that should be taken seriously.”

Christian Heritage School student Harry Scott, son of Renny and Margaret Scott, said math teacher Sabrina Owens helped him both personally and academically. Renny Scott is the school’s headmaster.

“To me, a STAR teacher is someone who’s more than a teacher,” Harry Scott said. “I grew to respect her character as much as her teaching style. It’s great to have a teacher you can go to outside of class. She’s taught me outside the classroom in so many ways. I respect her advice.”

Owens, also one of Scott’s youth leaders in his church, said because of CHS’s small size she had the opportunity to teach Scott four years in a row.

“Harry is one of the brightest students I’ve ever taught, a very deep thinker. He catches on quickly to concepts — so much so that he could quickly become bored and go off-task,” said Owens, who painted Scott as a bit of a class prankster. “Class was never boring because I’d have to stay one step ahead of Harry.”

Northwest student Kyle Shaughnessy said speech teacher Miles Tannenbaum was one of his more controversial teachers, encouraging him to stretch his thinking.

“He embodies what all teachers should be,” said Kyle, son of John and Gay Shaughnessy. “He doesn’t just fill you up with knowledge, though he certainly does. But he has his own way of going about it, in which you have to find the knowledge. He doesn’t just hand it to you.”

Tannenbaum said the speech class in which he taught Shaughnessy was informal and involved current events.

“It became obvious very early that the politics in this class were somewhere to the right of Attila the Hun, very conservative to say the least. I hate to use the ‘L’ word, but I must admit I am a liberal,” Tannenbaum said. “Kyle often sat during debates very quiet, no help to me whatsoever. Finally, one day he came up to me after class and told me something I really needed.”

Southeast student Samantha Bearden, daughter of Harvey and Sharon Bearden, said English teacher Emily Dunn personifies the differences between a good and exceptional teacher.

“In my experience, it’s become very apparent to me — the exceptional teacher is one who cares more about the student as a person than the student as a number in a class,” Bearden said. “The exceptional teacher is the one who knows your name by the end of the first week, rather than the end of the semester.”

Bearden said as a freshman, she enrolled in Dunn’s college prep English class because she was too intimidated as a ninth-grader to enroll in an honors class. Dunn encouraged her to move up to that level.

“Samantha entered my class and was immediately an outstanding student,” Dunn said. “She was an honors-level student, but I could not bear to give her up. She wrote things in her essays that I had never thought of before. And there is no greater joy as a teacher than to learn from a student.”

Richardson and Shaughnessy were picked to represent the local school systems at regional competition March 21 at Coosa Country Club in Rome. Students from the regional will be picked to attend state competition on April 26 in Atlanta.

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