Effingham County High School senior Jessica Friday was recognized Thursday as the systemwide STAR student by the Effingham Rotary Club, where she and students from South Effingham High School were recognized.
Friday chose Wendy Fears as her STAR teacher.
“I’m an English person, have been, always will be,” Friday said.
She plans on attending Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville, where she will major in English with a concentration in creative writing.
Friday plans on continuing into graduate school to earn a doctorate and to teach at the college level.
“That brings the question about my STAR teacher,” she said. “She’s a math teacher, and there are a lot of questions about why I’d pick a math teacher, and that’s not just because she teaches amazing math. She taught me something more than any other teacher has taught me. She taught me that no matter what life hands you, you just have to make the best out of it and continue and move on.
“If I make a bad grade in her class I continue, I move on — it happens a lot — but I try,” Friday said.
She also said Fears has taught her compassion for other people, leading her to volunteer at the Buddy Walk each year, since Fears’ daughter has Down syndrome.
“I just love helping her out as part of the Physics/Calculus Club,” Friday said. “I don’t judge people. I look at them and I say you know that you’re a great person. She’s taught me that more than anyone else,” Friday said.
Friday said her parents inspired her, and she is also very involved with her grandparents.
“She’s taught me how to cook, and he’s taught me how to laugh,” she said of her grandparents.
Fears said Friday has a servant’s heart.
“As Rotarians, I know that’s important to you,” Fears said. “You should feel honored to be honoring her today.”
Dr. Mark Winters, Rotary member and principal at South Effingham Middle, explained the STAR program.
“This is a special year for STAR because it is the 50th anniversary,” Winters said. “It originally began in 1958, and for you high school students that was just ancient times.”
The Georgia Chamber of Commerce has recognized more than 21,000 STAR students since starting the program 50 years ago.
Winters said the former STAR students are educators, business people, attorneys and doctors.
“There have been numerous teachers chosen, but one teacher over this time period was chosen 20 times as a STAR teacher,” he said. “This is one of the things that our Rotary Club really enjoys doing, and one of the things that drew me to this Rotary Club was the way we recognize students and our educators, our teachers in the school system.”
Winters said many of the people at the meeting are in Effingham because of the school system, and many of their neighbors are as well.
“We have a great school system, and today we’re able to say this is the reason we have a great school system,” he said. “We have great students who are supported by great parents, and then we’ve got great teachers who teach them and stretch their abilities even further.”
The STAR student is determined by SAT score. The highest scoring student from each school is recognized, and the student with the highest score of the schools is the system’s STAR student.
Students then choose the teacher they believe has had the most significant impact on their academic success, and that teacher is recognized as the STAR teacher.
Winters said even though students may have a favorite subject, they do not earn the highest SAT score in the senior class by being good at one subject. Back when he was in school, they were the students he didn’t like “because they were good at everything academically.”
“I had my one little area, but they were good at everything,” he said. “When I became a teacher, those were the students I loved to teach because they loved to learn.
“They questioned, they challenged you. They made you be a better teacher because you knew if you didn’t have your best game on that day they were going to ask you a question that would make you look dumb, and you wanted to be smarter these kids.”
Winters said the STAR students from both high schools are the brightest, and encouraged all of them to remember the “community you are a part of, the community you will become a part of, and give back.”
There was a three-way tie for STAR student at SEHS this year between Annie Tang, Josh Coleman and Lana Williams. Tang chose Jane Dolan as her STAR teacher, Coleman selected Carla McCurry and Williams picked Tina Crapse.
“It means so much to me to see the teachers recognized,” schools Superintendent Randy Shearouse said. “I think about what a great honor that is. For someone to think that much of you, that you made that much difference in their life, that means everything. That’s why we’re in education.”
Winters said it is the education system that we have here that produces such wonderful students and keeps the teachers in the county.
“Our students are great not only in the classroom, but beyond, and that’s what makes them so special,” Winters said.
Friday scored a 2,040 on the SAT.