2017 Star Students and Star Teachers
* Forsyth Central: Parker Bryant Davenport, Kelli Schuyler
* Horizon Christian Academy: Taejun “TJ” Kim, Gary Bennett
* Lambert: Amanda Lang, Lisa Robinson
* North Forsyth: Bradley Dover, Amanda Swafford
* Pinecrest Academy: Lauren Cobak, Len Insalaca
* South Forsyth: Harish Kamath, Carol Sikes
* West Forsyth: Kelsey Kasischke, Lisa Brock
SOUTH FORSYTH -- It is no secret that education in Forsyth County, both public and private, is among the best in the state, so to be named as a high school’s Star Student, a teenager must be as close to perfect as possible.
That’s what Amanda Lang did.
The Lambert High School senior was named the county-wide 2017 Star Student — a program that recognizes the best single- day SAT college entrance exam score among students who are in the top 10 percent of their class by GPA — Thursday night at the University of North Georgia Cumming campus.
“In a community like ours, you have to be really, really smart,” said Forsyth County Schools Superintendent Jeff Bearden about how to make it to the top of this program. “Because we have many brilliant students.”
Lang’s 2400 — a perfect score — means she will represent Forsyth County in its five high schools and two private parochial schools at the regional level this spring, which eventually leads to the state level.
She and the other Star Students are now among nearly 26,000 in Georgia who have been honored by the Professional Association of Georgia Educators’ (PAGE) Student Teacher Achievement Recognition (STAR) program, which is in its 59th year.
“These kids do not just score higher on academics — they’re usually leaders in clubs, among their peers,” said Diann Branch, membership services representative for PAGE. “They’re going to do very, very well in life, and it’s neat to celebrate them.”
At the dinner, hosted by the Cumming Kiwanis Club, each student told the crowd — filled with beaming parents, teachers, principals and counselors — about their next steps after high school, from what colleges they have been accepted to and what they want to study.
“My dream college is Northwestern,” said Lang, who wants to study chemical engineering and “dabble” in journalism and foreign language.
Each student gets to choose a Star Teacher, someone who has made the biggest impact on their lives in high school.
“She kind of opened my eyes into the world, I guess more practically,” said Lang of Lisa Robinson, her Spanish teacher. “Throughout middle school and high school, we’re always very babied, but she gave us a dose of reality in a really good and informative way. And I also learned a lot of Spanish and kind of grew my passion for foreign language learning and culture.”
Robinson said Lang “makes it so worth it” to teach.
“I’ve been teaching for almost 25 years, and you do have a lot students come through and you do sometimes forget names. But it’s kids like Amanda that are not just great students but great people,” she said. “She’s that perfectly well-rounded students that’s good at a lot of things and is also a good person.”
The theme of students performing at high academic levels who are also good people was a recurring theme throughout the night.
“I never see her flustered. In teaching a lot of advanced kids, I see a lot of kids who are stressed out all of the time,” said Lisa Brock, Star Teacher for Kelsey Kasischke at West Forsyth High School. “She always takes everything as a growing experience and a learning experience.”
Kasischke said she has applied to a handful of schools but that her top choices are Auburn, Clemson and Alabama for biomedical engineering.
Harish Kamath, the Star Student at South Forsyth High School, said he is choosing between Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia to study applied math or computer science.
“It was just beautiful to watch his answers to incredibly difficult problems and his eloquent solutions,” said Carol Sikes, his calculus teacher. “To be as bright as he is and not act like he’s that much smarter — he’s humble about it, and, at least in my presence, I’ve never seen him do anything but help other people try to learn math.”
At Pinecrest Academy, Lauren Cobak said she is undecided on where she wants to go to college by knows she wants to study biomedical engineering “or something related to that.”
She chose the band teacher she has had since fifth grade, Len Insalaca, as her Star Teacher because he “really cares about his students doing the best they can outside of just academics.”
Insalaca said the senior is “one of those people who you can always depend on to do the right thing, even when it’s not popular. She cares about other people and wants to seek justice in their world.”
Amanda Swafford, the teacher Bradley Dover chose as his Star Teacher, said her student has “that grit” and “that determination” to “get the task done. He’s the go-to guy.”
Dover, who said he will probably choose Georgia Tech over UGA for computer science to be a software developer, saw something other Star Students have seen in Swafford — this is her sixth year being chosen.
Teachers and students honored did not just form bonds in the classroom over calculus.
Taejun “TJ” Kim chose his bible teacher at Horizon Christian Academy, Gary Bennett, as his Star Teacher.
“He is my life mentor,” said Kim, who said he will probably go to Georgia Tech to study mechanical engineering.
Forsyth Central High School’s Star Teacher, Kelli Schuyler, said it made sense Parker Bryant Davenport was not able to attend the event due to a Thespian competition.
“He entered STEM as a ninth grader but is truly a creative, imaginative person. He can really take the creative aspect and apply it to STEM,” she said.
PAGE’s Branch said there are 165 programs determining county winners over the next two weeks before a region winner is named.
“It’s amazing. It just kind of blows your mind,” she said, “once you hear all they’re