The banquet featured speeches by the honorees and their favorite teachers, the presentation of gifts and a buffet dinner.
The students and teachers were congratulated by the Cherokee County School Board, and each student received an iPad, $50 gift card, plaque and handcrafted commemorative mug. Each teacher received a plaque and a $100 gift card. The gifts were made possible by donations from event sponsors.
Each student was invited to speak about his or her college and career plans and had the opportunity to recognize the teacher who made the greatest impact on their educational experience. The honored teachers spoke about their outstanding students.
Cherokee High valedictorian Jebb Ricketts will study economics at Emory University. During his speech, he honored economics and history teacher Dan Gagnon, thanking him for his lessons and sense of humor.
“He’s one of those students who made me a better teacher,” Gagnon said.
Cherokee High salutatorian Taylor Wilson will pursue a degree in chemistry and Russian at Vanderbilt University on her path to a career as a doctor. She recognized Spanish teacher Jay Huller, who gave her the “confidence to carry on a conversation in another language.”
“She is going to grow up to be a fantastic woman,” Huller said.
Creekview High valedictorian Victoria Cochran is headed to Harvard University to study chemistry and he thanked Henry Oglesby, who in addition to being her math teacher, also served as sponsor for the math team and Beta Club during her participation in both groups.
Oglesby praised Victoria for her success, not only in academics, but also in athletics and other extra-curricular activities, adding she’s such a good student, “I usually check my answer key against hers.”
Creekview High salutatorian Kasey Perrin, who plans to study English at Georgia College & State University and work as a writer, honored history and psychology teacher Cleve Ard.
“He showed me what it means to be a great teacher,” she said.
Etowah High valedictorian Madison Miracle will major in pre-med at the University of Georgia with a career planned in neuroscience. She thanked history and sociology teacher Rebecca Schwartz for not only teaching her “classroom lessons, but also life lessons.”
“She’s very humble about her accomplishments — maybe too humble,” Schwartz said.
Etowah High salutatorian Ahila Manivannan has been accepted into the MedStart Program at Wayne State University in Detroit, Mich., where she will major in nutrition or biology to prepare for a career as an ophthalmologist. Spanish teacher Dr. Claudia Larrotta taught her the value of learning a new language, she said.
“This is the greatest honor you can have as a teacher,” Larrotta said. “She has touched my life.”
River Ridge High’s first-ever valedictorian, Raj Patel, and salutatorian, Ian Donn, were honored at the event, and both are headed to Georgia Tech.
Patel, who will major in electrical/computer engineering, recognized math teacher Matt Bohon. “In his classroom, I felt immersed in all the knowledge he has to give,” Patel said.
When Raj was an underclassmen, Bohon said he would sit-in on Raj’s math classes “just to watch some good math,” as he already was impressed by the young man who would be his future student.
Ian, who will major in computer science to prepare for a career in robotics, thanked teacher Chris Akins for teaching him science and making it fun.
Sequoyah High valedictorian Margaret Hartman is headed to Harvard College to study biology and play on its basketball team. She plans to pursue a career as a pediatric or neonatal surgeon and honored math teacher Andy Kohler, who she praised for his devotion to students in class and beyond, adding that he would come to her games to cheer for her.
“She’s one of those students who doesn’t stop learning,” Kohler said, noting that Maggie also is one of the students who showed great concern for him after the recent loss of his son.
Sequoyah High salutatorian Anna King, who will attend Brigham Young University to study biology in preparation for a career in the medical field, thanked Spanish teacher Allison Webb. “She blows my mind with her knowledge,” Anna said.
Webb said, “Anna has the ability to make everyone around her happier. She brings blessings to everyone who meets her.”
Woodstock High valedictorian Sara Graf will study biology at Brown University to pursue a career in medicine. She honored math teacher John Bell, who is retiring this year, noting she had to “elbow her way in to get to see him” before or after classes because he’s so popular among students.
“I never cease to be amazed,” Bell said of Sara, who not only “knows more than we do,” but also is a talented athlete and involved student. “When Sara walks into my room, I consider it an honor.”
Woodstock High salutatorian Joshua Chang is headed to Yale University to study mechanical engineering.
Joshua thanked math teacher Loretta Cameron for sharing her insights about math and life.
“I could always see his wheels turning,” Cameron said.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Frank R. Petruzielo and Barbara Jacoby, director of public information, communications and partnerships, presided over the ceremony, with greetings by School Board Chair Janet Read and an invocation by Dr. Brian Hightower, assistant superintendent for school operations.