South Effingham High School senior Savannah Wagner is too young to remember the E.F. Hutton brokerage firm’s popular television commercials in the 1970s and ‘80s.
However, SEHS English teacher Tina Crapse evokes the commercial’s indelible catch phrase, “When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen,” to describe class discussions when she was Wagner’s AP English teacher last year.
“Everyone would get quiet and wait for Savannah’s answer,” Crapse said. “They know, when Savannah answers, it’s going to be the definitive answer. And with depth.”
Along with the astute analysis and precise diction Wagner brings to the classroom, Crapse described her as a “phenomenal writer.”
“When I have my stack of essays,” Crapse said, “I put hers on the bottom, because it could ruin the rest of them.”
Wagner earned the highest SAT score in South Effingham’s senior class, making her the school’s 2013 STAR (Student Teacher Achievement Recognition) Student. No surprise, her highest score on the test’s three sections was in writing.
“I’m so happy I’ve been able to have this opportunity,” Wagner said of being South’s STAR. “Everything that I’ve been lucky enough to have in life has come to this, and that means a lot to me.”
Wagner chose Crapse as her STAR Teacher. She credited Crapse with encouraging her passion for writing and teaching her the finer points of it.
“Who wouldn’t pick Mrs. Crapse?” Wagner asked rhetorically. “She’s just an amazing teacher.”
“The true beauty of what Mrs. Crapse does for her students is in the gentle, motherly morality with which she teaches us — not only our classroom material,” Wagner said in naming Crapse as her STAR Teacher, “but also how to carry ourselves with goodness, intellectuality and respect for ourselves and the world around us.”
Crapse called her being selected as Wagner’s STAR Teacher “humbling, because she’s the type of student that I really didn’t feel like I had to do that much.”
“I know God has me where he wants me to be, but it’s a validation that I’m doing what I need to be doing,” Crapse said. “What my peers think of me is OK, but what my students think of me is far more important.”
As gifted a writer as Wagner is, she is just as talented a musician. In fact, she plans to make music her career.
Once she makes her college choice from the “veritable laundry list of schools” to which she has applied, Wagner plans to major in music performance. She hopes to play the piano for a living, with one possibility being to pursue a doctorate in piano performance and teach at a university.
While balancing her schoolwork, Wagner has been active in South Effingham’s marching band and wind ensemble in all four years of high school. She also participates in the pep and jazz bands.
She showed her versatility last month when the wind ensemble participated in the University of Georgia’s January High School Band Festival. Wagner played the bassoon for the first four songs and the super grand piano for the finale.
Introducing Wagner at the STAR Student luncheon, South Effingham Principal Mark Winters said, “I present to you a student who is not only very intelligent, but also very talented.”
Wagner’s interest in music began at a young age. She said she was just 6 years old when she started piano lessons, at the encouragement of her grandmother, Elizabeth Lasher.
“My grandma has played piano her whole life and she said to my mom, ‘You have to start her early,’” Wagner recalled. “I don’t think I ever had a natural talent — I just practiced.”
Wagner credits her parents, Jeff and Elizabeth Wagner, with also fostering a love of books. She said her mother read her “everything from Dr. Seuss’ ‘Hop on Pop’ to ‘Little Women.’”
“I was enjoying, ‘Oh, The Places You’ll Go’ and ‘Treasure Island’ simultaneously,” Wagner said. “Of course, I couldn’t read it when I was that young …”
“… But she was read to,” Crapse chimed in. “It makes all the difference.”