This year marks the 50th anniversary of the STAR (Student Teacher Achievement Recognition) Student program sponsored by the Professional Association of Georgia Educators (PAGE).
The program, locally sponsored by the Covington Kiwanis Club, honors high school seniors in the top 10 percent of their class who log the highest score in one sitting of the SAT. At the local level, each high school names its STAR student and each student picks a teacher to honor.
Newton County's 2008 STAR Student is Justin Michael Walden of Alcovy High School, who scored 2200 out of the possible 2400 on the SAT.
Newton High's STAR Student is Thaddeus Carpenter with a score of 2070, and Eastside High's STAR Student is Spencer Tompkins with a score of 1970.
"All three of these young men represent the motto of Newton County Schools - spirit, pride and excellence," said Kathy Reese, director of high school curriculum for Newton County Schools. "We congratulate them, their selected STAR teachers and their families for this outstanding honor."
Walden plans to major in neuroscience and behavioral biology at Emory University where he has been accepted. He would like to attend medical school.
He chose Latin teacher Charles Gammel as his STAR Teacher.
"As a teacher he's very excited about what he's teaching and his class is full of interesting discussions," Gammel said.
Gammel said Walden is a student who is completely individually driven.
"He reads and learns just for the heck of it - just to learn and it's pretty impressive," Gammel said.
Although Carpenter said he does not know where he wants to attend college, he is considering a few liberal arts state colleges as well as a Catholic College.
His chose Pamela Greer, Newton High English teacher, as his STAR Teacher.
"I picked her because she teaches English and that's a big part of the SAT, and I know she's part of the reason I got such a good score," Carpenter said.
Greer said Carpenter can play games on a calculator constantly and still make an A on and English test. She described him as one of the smartest students she's encountered in her almost 25 years of teaching.
"Thad is a non-conformist and enjoys it," Greer said.
Tompkins graduated a semester early from Eastside High and plans to study engineering at Mercer University in the fall. He received a significant scholarship from the school.
Eastside Latin teacher Eric Adams, also the 2008 Newton County Teacher of the Year, was Tompkins choice for STAR Teacher.
"He's the most dedicated person I know," Tompkins said. "He probably spends more time with his class than I do awake."
Adams said Tompkins would no doubt succeed in his future academic endeavors and thanked members of the Kiwanis Club for recognizing the students and giving them the opportunity to recognize the teachers who inspire them.
"Of all the things teachers can receive accolades for - to be honored by your students is the most important one," Adams said.
Local STAR Students compete for region honors in 12 regions, and region winners advance to the state STAR Student honors ceremony in Atlanta.