February 5, 2013

‘To be in the running is enough honor’

STAR students, teachers honored for excellence

By Christopher Smith

— Working his first year in the International Baccalaureate (IB) program at Dalton High School was “very tough” for teacher David Hilley.

He must’ve done better than he thought because Hilley was named the Dalton Public Schools system-wide recipient of the Student Teacher Achievement Recognition (STAR) award at Monday’s Kiwanis Club of Dalton meeting at the trade center. He was chosen as the STAR teacher by Dalton High senior Pratik Bhatter, the STAR student for Dalton Public Schools.

STAR is part of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators (PAGE), a statewide organization with 84,000 members that nominates students from each school district who have the highest SAT score from a single testing period and are in the top 10 percent of their class based on grade point average. Students who are named at each high school pick a favorite teacher to honor.

“And I've had plenty of teachers in high school teaching me,” Bhatter said, “but what Mr. Hilley does is walk alongside with you while you’re learning. The whole education process has been a journey. It's not just a journey for us, but for him, too. He’s always there, even outside of class.”

Darshan Patel, a senior at Southeast Whitfield High School and the STAR student for Whitfield County Schools, also pointed to “outside the class help” as his main reason for picking math teacher Matthew Hickman as the STAR teacher for county schools.

“He helped me when I was writing my college admissions essay to submit to Georgia Tech,” Patel said. “He even stayed after school to help me with that. He’s always helped me whenever I needed it. Having a great math teacher is perfect for me.”

Perfect because Patel, who is still in the application process to several colleges, plans to major in electrical engineering where math is heavily used.

“I feel very prepared thanks to Mr. Hickman,” he said.

Hickman said there are plenty of good teachers in the county and city schools.

“To be in the running is enough honor,” he said, “much less to be accepted. It’s great.”

And surprising, noted Hilley.

“When he (Bhatter) first told me I was his choice, I was thinking ‘Why would you pick me?’” Hilley joked. “I thought, ‘I’m sure you’ve had other teachers to pick from.’”

But not all teachers called Bhatter after a college admissions interview.

“I just got done with it Tuesday and Mr. Hilley called me up and asked how it went,” Bhatter said. “It just shows he’s watching out for me; that he has my back.”

Bhatter says he is preparing for the IB exit test — “an absolutely horrible experience with written answers and two weeks of exam after exam after exam” — but is confident Hilley has prepared him for the advanced essays he hopes to pass to get early college credit.

Anna Kate Stevens was named STAR student for Northwest Whitfield High School, picking Deborah Craft as her STAR teacher. Victoria Caldwell is the STAR student for Christian Heritage School, picking JoAnn Irwin as her STAR teacher. Lilian Denisse Sanchez Luna is the STAR student for Coahulla Creek High School, naming Elizabeth Scroggs as her STAR teacher.

Bhatter and Patel will go on to regional competition in Rome on March 21. There is no regional or state teacher competition.