The eight students from Carroll County, Carrollton and Oak Mountain Academy are in the top 10 percent of their graduating classes this year and scored the highest on the national aptitude test, the SAT.
The student-teacher pairs were honored at the Student/Teacher Achievement Recognition (STAR) breakfast sponsored by the chamber and the Times-Georgian. The event also served as the chamber's first membership breakfast of the year.
"We married this presentation with our first breakfast of the year this time because we realize the impact that education has on the workforce," said Daniel Jackson, president and CEO of the Carroll County Chamber. "We know how much our businesses benefit from a well-educated workforce."
One of the pairs recognized was not like the others — whereas seven pairs included a student and a high school teacher, one student decided to recognize someone from farther back in her education: her kindergarten teacher.
Madison Runyan of Bowdon High named Paula Steed, a retired kindergarten teacher at Bowdon Elementary, as her STAR Teacher.
The Bowdon senior said the choice was easy because Steed had been such an influence on every school year after kindergarten.
Runyan and Steed joined four other STAR students and teachers from Carroll County Schools: Josh Dorsey of Central High, who chose Charles Ponder as his STAR teacher; Adriauna Clay of Temple High, who selected Rebecca Wright as her STAR teacher; Justin Crawford of Mt. Zion High, who chose Elizabeth McDill as his STAR teacher; and Max Dubois of Villa Rica High, who picked Cynthia Cox as his STAR teacher.
Carrollton High encountered a tie in selecting its STAR student. Nicholas Gainey and Erin Matthews were the two CHS students who had identical SAT scores and were both in the top 10 percent. Gainey chose William Melton as his STAR teacher, and Matthews selected Steven Daugherty as hers.
Oak Mountain Academy STAR student Sam Park chose James Louttit as his STAR teacher.
Park and Gainey were chosen as the Carroll County winners who will go on to represent the county in the region.
"This is our chance, one we get every year but one I see every day, to recognize the wonderful things our teachers are doing and the great strides our students are making," said Scott Cowart, superintendent of Carroll County Schools.
Cowart said the county is "very fortunate" to have businesses and civic leaders who support education, saying the two spheres of the community "have to continue working together."
Dr. Kent Edwards, superintendent of Carrollton City Schools, encouraged the students to use their smarts to improve their community.
"I look forward every year to be able to 'bring the cream to the top,' as they say, and recognize the students and teachers who really deserve it," Edwards said.
The head of schools for Oak Mountain Academy, a private college-preparatory school, Paula Gillespie, said she envied teachers' positions.
"Teachers are in the finest profession in the world," Gillespie said. "It's a thankless job sometimes, but there's nothing more exciting that seeing your students' eyes light up."
The STAR program honors Georgia's outstanding high school seniors and the teachers who have been most instrumental in their academic development.
During the past 55 years, the program has honored more than 23,500 high school seniors who have in turn chosen their STAR teachers to share in this recognition.
Every accredited high school in Georgia is eligible to participate in the STAR program.
The system winners, Gainey and Park, will go on to compete for region honors in one of the 12 STAR Regions. Region winners are invited to Atlanta to compete for the state STAR scholarships and awards.