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STARs come out in Newton

Newton County Student Teacher Achievement Recognition recipients were announced at the Covington Kiwanis Club meeting on Thursday at Covington First United Methodist. Shown here, from left to right, are: former Alcovy High Latin teacher Charles Gammel, with his former student and Alcovy High STAR recipient Victoria Wardlow; Eastside High Latin teacher Eric Adams, with his student and STAR recipient Kolyse Wagstaff, who was also named the STAR student for the school system; Indian Creek Middle science teacher Vicki Meeler, with her former student and Newton High STAR recipient Vitaliy Semenikhin; and Covington Kiwanis Club President Hillary Edgar. (Staff photo: Ryan McKenzie)

Newton County Student Teacher Achievement Recognition recipients were announced at the Covington Kiwanis Club meeting on Thursday at Covington First United Methodist. Shown here, from left to right, are: former Alcovy High Latin teacher Charles Gammel, with his former student and Alcovy High STAR recipient Victoria Wardlow; Eastside High Latin teacher Eric Adams, with his student and STAR recipient Kolyse Wagstaff, who was also named the STAR student for the school system; Indian Creek Middle science teacher Vicki Meeler, with her former student and Newton High STAR recipient Vitaliy Semenikhin; and Covington Kiwanis Club President Hillary Edgar. (Staff photo: Ryan McKenzie)

COVINGTON — Newton County School System and the Kiwanis Club of Covington announced the 2014 STAR Students and STAR Teachers at a noontime meeting Thursday.

The PAGE Student Teacher Achievement Recognition (STAR) program, now in its 56th year, is sponsored by the Professional Association of Georgia Educators (PAGE) Foundation, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and the Georgia Department of Education. Since its inception, the STAR program has honored more than 24,000 students and the teachers they have selected as having had the most influence on their academic success.

To obtain the STAR nomination, high school seniors must have the highest score on a single test date on the three-part SAT. The SAT is a national college entrance exam that assesses how well students analyze and solve problems. It is typically taken by high school juniors and seniors. Each section of the SAT is scored on a scale of 200—800, with two writing sub-scores for multiple-choice and the essay. In order to be a STAR Student, the student must also be in the top 10 percent or top 10 students of their class based on grade point average.

Eastside High School’s STAR Student, Kolyse Wagstaff, is also Newton County School System’s STAR Student as she had the highest SAT score in the district. Kolyse scored 2,100 out of 2,400 on the SAT. During her time at Eastside, Wagstaff has taken six AP courses, including calculus, Latin, U.S. history, English language and composition, English literature, and economics. She is a member of the Junior Classical League, Beta Club and the National Honor Society, and has played both tennis and volleyball for the school. During her spare time she enjoys playing softball with the church league.

Wagstaff has narrowed her college choices down to two —Georgia Southern and Kennesaw State University. She plans to major in nursing as her career goal is to become a nurse practitioner. Wagstaff selected her Latin teacher, Eric Adams, as her STAR Teacher, making Adams Newton County School System’s 2014 STAR Teacher. This is his ninth time being selected by a student as the STAR Teacher.

“Mr. Adams does anything for his students to make them successful,” said Wagstaff. “He goes way above and beyond what he gets paid for to help us succeed.”

Alcovy High School’s 2014 STAR Student is Victoria Wardlow. She scored 1,960 out of 2,400 on the SAT. In addition to her studies, Wardlow has been a member of the Latin Club, performed for three years in the Alcovy Band, and has also participated in drama. During her time at Alcovy, Wardlow has taken a several AP courses, including Latin, calculus, macroeconomics, European History, literature, language arts, environmental science, and U.S. history. In her spare time, Warlow coaches children in a Christian basketball program.

Wardlow plans to attend the University of Georgia to study classical languages and dramatic arts. Her career goal is to teach the classics and also become an actress.

Wardlow selected Charles Gammel, former Alcovy High School Latin teacher, as her STAR Teacher. Gammel now teaches at the Scholars Academy of Thomasville City Schools. This is Gammel’s first time being selected as a STAR Teacher.

“He’s my favorite teacher that I’ve ever had,” said Wardlow. “He’s the reason I like Latin so much. He pushed me to try even harder.”

Newton High School’s 2014 STAR Student is Vitaliy Semenikhin. He scored 1,880 out of 2,400 on his SAT. He has taken numerous AP classes, including world history, psychology, U.S. history, English language composition, chemistry, literature, macroeconomics, calculus, and physics. Semenikhin is enrolled in the Academy of Liberal Arts at Newton High School, and during his time at Newton High has been a member of the National Honor Society, the community service club Newton Interact, and the FFA. In his spare time he said he likes doing “typical nerdy stuff” like building model rockets, working on his car, and wood working.

Semenikhin is attending Georgia Tech where he plans to major in aerospace engineering. His career goal is to own his own business and he already has dozens of ideas he is considering. Semenikhin chose Vicki Meeler, a science teacher at Indian Creek Middle School, as his STAR Teacher. This is the first time Meeler has been selected as a STAR Teacher.

“She is one of two teachers who really inspired me and instilled in me a passion for science that no other teachers have done,” said Semenikhin. “She set me on a path for science.”

“Congratulations to our STAR students and teachers; we are very proud them,” said Samantha Fuhrey, superintendent of Newton County Schools. “Satisfying the requirements to be identified as a STAR student is no small task. Thank you to the families who support our students and teachers in all that they do — the support they receive is integral to the success of both. The hard work and dedication of our students and their selected teachers is instrumental to their identification as STAR students and teachers. We wish them continued success in the future.”

“The Kiwanis Club of Covington is pleased to recognize the STAR students and teachers,” said Hillary Edgar, president of the Kiwanis Club of Covington. “Our club is focused on helping the children of our community. For our club, it is a privilege and a wonderful tradition to get to celebrate some of the best and brightest students and educators our school system has to offer.”