All student and teacher profiles by HAYLEY GREENE
Special to the Herald
Bulloch Academy: ANSLEY WHITLOCK
Ansley Whitlock is the daughter of Dr. Austin and Heather Whitlock. Her senior class peers voted her Most Likely to Succeed, and she is well on her way with an acceptance into the University of Georgia’s honors program; however, she is eagerly awaiting decisions from 12 other colleges before she makes a decision about where to attend. She plans to pursue her love of government and politics by majoring in political science.
She is an active member and officer for several student organizations at her school including vice-president of the National Honor Society, president of the Y-Club, and previously served as class secretary for student council. She was also a Georgia Secretary of State student ambassador throughout high school.
Academics are not her only passion. When not in school, she is an accomplished dancer with the Statesboro School of Dance and performs with Bulloch Academy's drama department.
“This honor means the world to me,” Whitlock said. “I put in a ton of effort to try and get the highest SAT score I could for both college applications and for STAR Student, so it meant a lot when I found out that my work was rewarded. I haven’t been involved in many competitive activities in high school, so it feels really good to get recognized for something that I take a lot of pride in.”
Whitlock chose her sixth grade math teacher, Sommer Shuford as her STAR Teacher because of how much she loves her as both a teacher and a person. “She is one of the nicest people I've ever met, and I'm so blessed that she was my teacher for four years. Nobody else would have convinced me to learn 70-plus digits of Pi in the seventh grade! She was my math team coach and my teacher, but more importantly, she was and is my friend.”
“It was a true privilege to have had the opportunity to teach Ansley,” Shuford said. “When she was a student in my sixth grade class, I knew she would reach any goal she set because of her superior work ethic and determination. She has a passion for learning and continually challenges herself in her academics and extracurricular activities. In addition to her academic accolades, she excels in dance, drama, literary and is an involved member of her church and school clubs. I am excited to see what the future holds for this sweet, talented young lady.”
Whitlock is also Bulloch County’s STAR Student, and Shuford is the county’s STAR Teacher. They will advance to the Region 8 STAR, comprised of 16 counties. The Region 8 STARs will be honored on March 18 during a luncheon sponsored by the Statesboro Exchange Club and held at Georgia Southern.
Each of the winning STARs from the 11 STAR regions will advance to the state event on April 29 in Duluth.
Southeast Bulloch: DREW HART
Drew Hart is the 17-year-old son of Andy and Cindi Hart. He has been accepted to the University of Georgia, and he can’t wait to be a Dawg this fall and see what God has in store for him in Athens, but confesses he will always be proud to be a Yellow Jacket.
“It is a huge blessing to have achieved this recognition, and all the glory and honor belongs to the good Lord, because without him none of this would have been possible,” said Hart. “I also could not have done this without my parents, who constantly push me to do better no matter how well I think I do.”
He adds that no guy wants to sit down and study, but his parents made sure he did plenty of it.
Hart offers thanks to all of his elementary, middle and high school teachers, but especially Susan Boddiford, his 10th grade math teacher. He credits her with teaching him math that he can apply to everyday life.
“She always took time to explain things in a way we could all understand. One of the most beneficial things she did for us that sticks out in my mind was on a Friday before several of us took the SAT. She devoted nearly the whole class period to reviewing common problems that we would see on the math section of the SAT, and I do believe that those 90 minutes in her class were absolutely crucial to my success on the test,” he said.
“Andrew was a hardworking and high-achieving student who was conscientious about doing his work and always strove to do his best,” said Boddiford. “In addition to his excellent academics in the classroom, he is one of the most kind and respectful students I have ever taught. He was thoughtful and considerate to me in many ways during my time teaching him, and I will always remember him as much for his warm personality and kindness as for his academics.”
Statesboro High: ELETRIA BISWAS
Eletria Biswas is the 17-year-old daughter of Juthika Golder. She has already been accepted to Yale and Georgia Institute of Technology, but she’s waiting on a few other schools to release their decisions before she makes her selection of where to attend school this fall. She plans to major in mechanical engineering or materials science, ideally with a focus on sustainability and creating alternatives to harmful single-use plastics.
Her passions are reading, painting and politics, so currently you’ll find her reading “It Can’t Happen Here,” by Sinclair Lewis and being a campus core leader for the Bernie Sanders 2020 presidential campaign, where she’s involved in canvassing, organizing and telephone banking for the independent candidate’s pursuit of the Democratic nomination. She hopes to eventually shape policy in more significant ways.
At Statesboro High School she’s involved with the National Art Honor Society and Model United Nations. She was also the school’s Governor’s Honors nominee in science.
Biswas is a dual-enrolled student at Georgia Southern University. There she has found an interest in philosophy, and will soon give a talk on the philosophical debate surrounding suicide and euthanasia. She has also been part of the chemistry department’s Quirino Research Group since 2018. Led by Dr. Rafael Lopes Quirino, it carries out student-driven, original research focused on the use of natural oils and other bio-renewable resources as starting materials to develop renewable products with environmental and economical significance.
“It’s been the best and most impactful academic pursuit I’ve been involved in,” Biswas said.
Biswas selected her high school science teacher Rich McCombs as her STAR Teacher.
“He has been one of the most important people in shaping my academic career,” Biswas said. “He cultivated both my love of scientific research in my 10th grade STEM class, and my interest in sustainability in my AP environmental science class. His passion for STEM is evident through all the clubs and classes he runs, and through the way he motivates kids to pursue science even when it's difficult.”
“Eletria is one of the most special young ladies that I have ever had the privileged to teach,” McCombs said. “Her hard work and dedication to all that she does has paved her way for an awesome future. One of the most important attributes that Eletria has is her sense of humor, even under the pressure of rigorous high school and college courses and activities. She is almost always smiling and willing to crack a good joke.”
Portal Middle-Senior: C.J. OGLESBY
Steven “C.J.” Oglesby is the 17-year-old son of Steven and Linda Oglesby of Portal. Born in Bulloch County and raised in Portal, he’s enjoyed the close-knit experience of his town’s two community schools since he was 4 years old. He’s always worked hard to maintain high grades, and that has led him to be accepted to Georgia Southern University where he plans to major in nursing.
"This award means my hard work was not wasted. I am proud to represent Portal in this way,” he said.
C.J. chose his high school band director, John Gleissner, as his STAR Teacher.
“He is a very close mentor whose passion and dedication to his students and school has had a major impact on my life,” Oglesby said. “His character has strongly influenced me to be who I am and hope to be.”
Gleissner chose Oglesby to be the leader of the Portal bands. “He consistently shows a will to be the best and to stay true to himself,” Gleissner said. “He consistently pushes not only himself, but others, to be better.”
Trinity Christian: BLAIR NEAL
Blair Neal is the 18-year-old daughter of David and Sharon Neal. She has been accepted to both Covenant College and Georgia Southern University, but is still deciding which school to attend. She plans to major in accounting.
“When I heard the news about being STAR Student, I was thrilled to be the recipient of such recognition. It truly is an honor after the hard work and energy it takes to gain this wonderful reward. I must also thank my parents for supporting me in all I strive to do. I want to thank my STAR Teacher, Mrs. Tracy Batchelor, for imparting to me many of her mathematical strategies and clever ways to remember information, along with the great enthusiasm she shows in everything she does. She has been a true inspiration to me, not only academically but also as a role model in Christian character and values. Without these supports and role models cheering me through my high school career, I definitely would not be here today!”
“Blair demonstrated a model commitment to learning on a daily basis in my classroom,” said Batchelor. “She was always prepared with her work and exhibited the perseverance needed to pursue conceptual understanding not just procedural fluency. When I supported the time required to reflect through the math we were learning, she was honest with herself and willing to make meaningful connections towards growth. She is a joy and a blessing to Trinity Christian School and our community.”
Sommer Shuford — Bulloch Academy
Shuford is a middle school teacher with 11 years of experience. She obtained a bachelor’s degree in Middle Grades Education from Georgia Southern University. She has previously served in Effingham County at Ebenezer Middle School and now Bulloch Academy, where she was selected as Teacher of the Year during the 2018-19 school year.
John Gleissner — Portal Middle High School
Gleissner is the band director at Portal Middle High School, where he has served for six years. He previously served for nine years as Statesboro High School’s percussion ensemble and drum line instructor and two years as the school’s assistant band director. He obtained a bachelor’s degree in Music Education from Georgia Southern University.
Susan Boddiford — Southeast Bulloch High School
Boddiford, retired since 2018, served as an educator for 31 years, 17 of those years at Southeast Bulloch High School, where she was Teacher of the Year in 2014, and 14 years at Georgia Southern University. She obtained both her undergraduate and graduate degrees from Georgia Southern, earning a bachelor’s degree in Math Education in 1981, and a Master of Science for Teachers of Mathematics in 1982. This is the sixth time that she has been selected as a STAR Teacher.
Richard McCombs — Statesboro High School
McCombs is a three-time STAR Teacher, and he was the Region 8 STAR Teacher in 2012. He’s been an educator for 32 years serving 14 years in Florida, at two high schools in the Palm Beach County School District, and 18 years in Georgia, at Statesboro High School. He received a bachelor’s degree in Geology and a bachelor’s degree in Education from Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania. He also holds a master’s degree in Educational Leadership from Florida Atlantic University.
Tracy Batchelor — Trinity Christian School
Batchelor has been an educator for 10 years. She has served at the secondary and post-secondary levels at Trinity, South Effingham Middle School and Shorter University. She obtained a bachelor’s degree in Communications from Berry College, and holds two master’s degrees — one in Leadership from Shorter University and one in Teaching (Math and Social Studies) from Georgia Southern University.