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Bright STARs
STAR Teachers say students challenge them
Effingham County High Schools Devon Olding picked Danna Jones, far left, as her STAR teacher, and South Effingham High Schools Dallas McCorkendale chose Stephanie Tant, far right, as his STAR teacher. - photo by Photo by Pat Donahue

As the STAR teachers, both Danna Jones and Stephanie Tant pointed out how the students who chose them challenge them.

Effingham County’s two STAR students — Effingham County High School’s Devon Olding and South Effingham High School’s Dallas McCorkendale — were honored Thursday by the Rotary Club of Effingham County. McCorkendale was named the system STAR student and he will represent the county at the regional level.

Tant has taught McCorkendale for three years, and his previous classes with her include accelerate pre-calculus and accelerated analytic geometry. Currently, McCorkendale is taking AP calculus from Tant.

“Her class has always been real exciting,” he said. “She’s just a really great teacher. It’s just cool. I enjoy it. I enjoy patterns and solving difficult problems.”

Tant was on hall duty when McCorkendale approached her and asked to be his STAR teacher.

“I was really excited when he was chosen as STAR student and he chose me as his STAR teacher,” she said. “I absolutely love math, and I’m glad my students can see I’m passionate about the subject.”

Olding chose Jones, her AP English teacher last year, as her STAR teacher.

“Not many people knew about me, but I was a writer and I was a shy writer,” Olding said. “From the very first essay I submitted to her, she transformed me. She gave me confidence.”

Jones said the first time she read one of Olding’s AP essays she “cried tears of joy” because it was so good.

“She came to me at the beginning of last year, and I immediately knew she was a very, very intelligent student,” said Jones, who has been teaching at ECHS for eight years. “She really challenged me because I had to work hard to challenge her. She set the bar high for me as a teacher.”

By the time she graduates in May, Olding will have completed seven AP classes, along with pathways in Spanish, visual arts and law and justice. Olding has yet to make a college choice, though she has been accepted into the University of Georgia and Mercer University.

“She has a great personality,” Jones said of Olding. “She walks in the room and lights up the room with her simile. It’s contagious. She’s fun to be with every single day. She is amazing with her focus and attitude. She can read a piece of literature and has keen insight.”

As STAR students, Olding and McCorkendale had the highest SAT scores at their respective schools and also are in the top 10 percent of their class. The system STAR student has the higher SAT score among the winners from the two high schools.

McCorkendale’s activities at SEHS range from Beta Club, National Honor Society and the Science Olympiad to marching band drum captain and principal guitarist for the jazz band. He was chosen to be in the Governor’s Honors Program last summer.

Tant, who has been teaching at South Effingham for seven-and-a-half years, prepares every day for the level and number of questions McCorkendale will pose to her.

“When Dallas walked in, I could tell he had a deeper level of understanding,” she said. “I have to make sure I can answer all his questions, and he comes in with lots of questions. That makes sure I’m on my game in the classroom. He’s very inquisitive and I think that’s going to take him far in life. I can’t wait to see what he does next in life.”

McCorkendale has been accepted into Georgia Tech and had an interview with Harvard University after the STAR student luncheon. His No. 1 school is Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.

“I would love to go there,” he said.

Effingham Superintendent Randy Shearouse also noted how the teachers said their STAR students challenged them — and the STEM addition currently under construction at the Effingham College and Career Academy is a result of a push from the students.

“As you can see, we have a lot to be proud of in Effingham County,” he said. “I love that our STAR teachers said the students challenge them. We are challenged by our students every day. You can see the STEM academy. That was a challenge from our students because they want the best.”