Victoria Cochran from Creekview High School and Duncan Morgan from Etowah High School tied for the highest performance among eight others from Cherokee public and private schools who will serve as Cherokee’s 2013 STAR students.
Statewide, the Student Teacher Achievement Recognition program has been coordinated by the Professional Association of Georgia Educators Foundation since 1994. The Canton Lions Club was joined by the Woodstock chapter about 15 years ago to recognize local recipients.
Each of the winning students were selected for posting the highest SAT score on the three-part test in one sitting. Additionally, the students rank in the top 10 or top 10 percent of his or her graduating class based on grade point average.
The banquet to honor the STAR students and their selected STAR teachers was Tuesday at New Victoria Baptist Church in Woodstock and sponsored by the Canton and Woodstock Lions Clubs.
Other school-level winners included Cherokee High School senior Ashley Tofil and her STAR teacher Jay Huller; Cherokee Christian High School senior Abigail Jennings and her STAR teacher Dilawar Khan; River Ridge High School senior Emma O’Bryant and her STAR teacher Deborah McFerran; Sequoyah High School seniors Connor Reeder and David Kemp, who chose Allison Webb and Andy Kohler as their STAR teachers; and Woodstock High School senior Elena Ruiz and her STAR teacher Jennifer Forsyth.
During the event, the students were each given a certificate and spoke about his or her college plans. Each student then introduced his or her chosen STAR teacher.
Morgan, who is the only Cherokee County School District student to achieve a perfect score on the ACT, said he couldn’t have imagined going to any school but Etowah. He said the school provided him the opportunity to learn from great teachers and participate in the Academic Team, which is ranked in the top 20 in the U.S. for high school quiz bowl teams.
“It’s the most fun I’ve had, in my own nerdy way,” Morgan said of his participation on the Academic Team.
Morgan added Dr. Michelle Barthlow, his STAR teacher, helped make AP Chemistry one of his favorite classes. After graduating, he plans to attend either the University of Chicago or Vanderbilt University to study the subject.
“I enjoy chemistry, but both my chemistry teachers were kind of obsessed with chemistry ... They had these nerdy, fun jokes they’d tell all the time that were just terrible, but it was a lot of fun,” he said.
Some of the fun came along with interesting chemistry experiments, where Morgan said beakers tended to break and chemicals sometimes spilled.
“There was a fire once,” he said to a bout of laughter from the audience. “But overall, it was just a great class.”
Barthlow explained the lab mishaps happened despite having a smart group of students, as some were prone to accidents.
“For some reason when we would have lab—it’s not like they were misbehaving or doing anything wrong—but Murphy’s Law just lived over this group!” Barthlow joked.
She added Morgan is a shining example of what students can become when they come from a nurturing and loving home, as he also is composing a musical piece on piano for his senior project and is very involved in his church.
“He somehow manages to do a great deal and do all of it extremely well,” she said.
Cochran, who plans to major in chemistry in pursuit of becoming a pharmaceutical researcher, also said she enjoyed her time at Creekview because of great teachers and extra-curricular activities, including softball, chorus, spending time with friends and community service.
“I’ve learned lessons that have made me stronger,” she said. “I’ve discovered that hard work does not always result in recognition by others, but the internal satisfaction that you gain from doing it makes it all worth it regardless.”
Cochran said her STAR teacher, Michael Sinco, is a good teacher because of the long hours he puts in and outside of school to help students, but is a great teacher because he is genuinely interested in his students’ success.
“I’ve never seen so many students come to a single teacher for advice, recommendations or just to talk,” she said. “It’s truly a rare teacher that can be so approachable but so respected by his students at the same time.”
Sinco, a social studies teacher, said Cochran took little time to leave an impression on him in his class, as she helped perfect his tests by constantly asking questions after the exam about misleading questions or typographical errors.
“For Victoria, drive is her key,” Sinco said. “She is smart as a whip, but there is no one that I’ve met in my entire life that is as driven as she is.”
He said Cochran continually succeeds in most areas in her life—except one.
“She has terrible penmanship,” he joked. “She writes very, very badly in terms of being able to read it, but this is the pot calling the kettle black because mine is not much prettier.”
Cochran and Morgan will participate in the regional STAR banquet on March 15 in Cumming at the Windemere Golf Club with other Region 3A winners.
Regional winners will be up for the Georgia STAR student award April 29 in Atlanta.