Two years ago, Eric Ahn was a sophomore at Lambert High School in a dual-enrollment calculus class at Georgia Tech full of juniors and seniors.
“I had no idea who to rely on,” Ahn said.
But then he went to Teresa Swinehart. His former AP calculus teacher, and facilitator for the Georgia Tech class, encouraged him to push on. She even helped Ahn meet some of his classmates.
In the following years, Ahn continued to seek guidance from Swinehart, and Ahn repaid Swinehart by bringing her to the STAR Student banquet hosted by the Cumming Kiwanis Club Thursday at the University of North Georgia-Cumming campus.
Ahn was one of eight students – one from each Forsyth County
high school – recognized as the STAR student of their respective school.
Created by the Professional Association of Georgia Educators (PAGE), nominees
must be a high school senior with the highest SAT score on a single test date
and be in the top 10% or top 10 students of their class. Each student selected a
teacher to recognize as “the most influential to their academic achievement.”
Ahn and Denmark’s Rithwik Guntaka tied to represent the school system at the region level, where they’ll contend to be named the State PAGE STAR Student, bringing along their teacher at every level of the program.
Before their families, school administrators and Kiwanis members, each student was presented with a plaque and given the opportunity to speak about their future plans and respective STAR teacher.
None of the winners spoke about their futures. They instead praised their STAR teachers.
Guntaka selected Jennifer Marx, an AP English literature teacher at Denmark, for her “desire to make the classroom a better place.”
South Forsyth’s Sreenivas Yellayi, Pinecrest Academy’s Allie Doerr, Horizon Christian Academy’s Kaitlyn Strouth and West Forsyth’s Kalpana Agarwal selected their chemistry teachers: Cindy Philpot, Chad Morris, Sharon McGehee and Kelley Grogan, respectively.
The STEM-focused Julia Vallier, of Forsyth Central, selected English teacher Antonia Alberga-Parisi.
While Holley Murray, an aspiring writer, picked James Bassett, an English teacher she met freshman year who motivated her to pursue her passion for writing.
Students said their teachers instilled confidence, stretched their understanding, made classes about dense subject matters enjoyable or devoted extra time to help them.
For Ahn, that meant regularly meeting with Swinehart before and after school to get help. Hers was “the first classroom where I go, and it’s the last one that I leave,” he said.
Ahn added, “She’s always been there to support me, even in general life matters.”
STAR Student: Rithwik Guntaka
STAR Teacher: Jennifer Marx
STAR Student: Julia Elizabeth Vallier
STAR Teacher: Antonia Alberga-Parisi
STAR Student: Eric Ju Ahn
STAR Teacher: Teresa Swinehart
Horizon Christian Academy
STAR Student: Kaitlyn Strouth
STAR Teacher: Sharon McGehee
STAR Student: Holley Ann Murray
STAR Teacher: James Bassett
STAR Student: Allie Marie Doerr
STAR Teacher: Chad Morris
STAR Student: Sreenivas Yellayi
STAR Teacher: Cindy Philpot
STAR Student: Kalpana Agarwal
STAR Teacher: Kelley Grogan