By Christopher Smith
CHATSWORTH — When Murray County High School senior Raven Henry was named school system winner for the Student Teacher Achievement Recognition (STAR) program Friday morning, she was “very surprised.” Her teacher, Christina O’Dell, was not.
“I really expected it,” O’Dell said. “I’ve taught for 12 years and there are only a handful of students who could meet where Raven is academically. I remember the first day in class with her. She seemed quiet, but I quickly found out she was very intelligent. She’s a very intelligent kid.”
STAR is part of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators (PAGE), a statewide organization with 84,000 members that selects 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. Henry picked O’Dell because “she inspires.”
“She gave me the base for my future,” Henry said. “She taught me chemistry, and I knew that chemistry is what I wanted my future to be about. I knew I wanted to do something in the science field, but being in her class was when I was inspired to move towards chemistry.
“I really hope to attend Emory University, major in chemistry and go on a pre-med track. Then I hope to go into medicine and eventually focus on pathology. I am really, really happy about winning this.”
O’Dell said Henry’s intelligence is best demonstrated by her acceptance into the 2012 Governor’s Honors Program, a statewide summer program for intellectually or artistically gifted students. Being accepted is tough, O’Dell said, but being accepted in a science field is “especially competitive.”
“It’s a hard group to get into,” she said, smiling. “But Raven got into it. She worked hard.”
Hard work was also why North Murray High School senior Abigail Bradley was chosen as her school’s STAR student.
“She was very motivated to go above and beyond,” Danielle McClary, Bradley’s choice as STAR teacher, said. “This is probably the biggest reward teaching — to have kids tell you you’ve impacted them.”
Bradley said choosing McClary was easy because “she is an awesome teacher.”
“She’s always been a friend,” she said. “She has been that way ever since I had her for class.”
Henry joins the other local 2012-2013 STAR recipients: Dalton High School senior Pratik Bhatter of Dalton Public Schools and Southeast Whitfield High School senior Darshan Patel of Whitfield County Schools. A regional winner will be selected in Rome on March 21.
There is no regional or state teacher competition.