Bulloch County’s 2021 STAR student, David Lippincott, a senior at Statesboro High School, chose his third grade teacher, Estella Newkirt, who was then at Julia P. Bryant Elementary School, as the county’s 2021 STAR teacher.
The Bulloch County Board of Education is now the coordinating local sponsor for the Student Teacher Achievement Recognition program, with supporting sponsorship from the Rotary Club of Statesboro and the Bulloch County Foundation for Public Education. Two private schools, Bulloch Academy and Trinity Christian School, also participate, along with the three public high schools that are under the Board of Education, namely Portal Middle High, Southeast Bulloch High and Statesboro High.
All five schools’ STAR students – and the STAR teachers they chose as having made a great impact on their success – were recognized during the Rotary Club meeting Monday. Then the countywide winners were announced.
For an elementary school teacher to be chosen as a STAR teacher is not unheard of, but it is rare.
“I’ve had lots of great teachers throughout my years in middle and high school, but Ms. Newkirt, every time I always go back to her, and the impact she had on me and all of my classmates stands out as special to me,” Lippincott said after the ceremony. “She made everything so exciting and made learning more fun than any other teacher.”
Newkirt, who has taught for 21 years, left the Bulloch County Schools three years ago and is now a fourth grade teacher at Burke County’s SGA Elementary School in Sardis. But she not only returned for Monday’s STAR luncheon, Newkirt has been rehired by the Bulloch County board to teach next school year at Mattie Lively Elementary School.
When she taught at Julia P. Bryant Elementary, Newkirt also coached the school’s math teams for third-, fourth- and fifth-graders. She was Lippincott’s all-subjects teacher in third grade, but he was on the math team through third and fourth grades when the school won a series of area competitions. In 2011, Newkirt had founded the Reggie Dawson Memorial Math Tournament, which continues as an annual event for Bulloch County Schools third- and fourth-graders.
“She, like, made us all really care and get invested in learning, and she, I think, was a big influence in my passion for math as well,” Lippincott said.
Newkirt said she was “very shocked” when informed that Lippincott had selected her as STAR teacher, but remained “crystal clear” in her memory of the kind of student he was eight and nine years ago.
“I’ve taught a lot of great kids, but he’s extraordinary. This is what I remember. He’s the type of student who can make a teacher better. …,” Newkirt said. “He makes you prepare harder, he makes you think more. He makes you feel motivated, energized, smart and just blessed to be in his presence, and what makes it even better, he’s humble, he doesn’t come across as being a know-it-all or anything else. He’s just being himself.”
“It’s a great honor. I wasn’t expecting to get the main one,” Lippincott had said, referring to the county-level award.
The STAR student is the high school senior with the highest combined score on the math and reading portions of the SAT college admissions test at a single sitting in a school, county or region, subject to other qualifications. A STAR student’s grades must also place her or him among the top 10 students, or in the top 10 percent, of their class at their particular school.
Lippincott’s SAT score was 1580, just 20 points shy of a perfect 1600.
He is the 18-year-old son of Dr. Lincoln Lippincott and Elizabeth Lippincott.
The county STAR student plays piano, often for several hours a day, and plays keyboard for two different contemporary services each Sunday at Statesboro First United Methodist Church.
Lippincott started taking Georgia Southern University courses as a dual-enrollment student in 10th grade and already has more than a year’s worth of college credits. Next, he will probably go to the Georgia Institute of Technology and major in mathematics but still has not made a final decision because he has a couple of other possibilities, he said. He has not decided on a career.
Bulloch Academy’s 2021 STAR student, Lillie Sumner, chose Courtney Burnette, who teaches English at Bulloch Academy, as STAR teacher.
“She is the reason I love to come to school,” Sumner said. “She has been a recommender of books and a suggester of songs since I was a sophomore. She has never stopped encouraging and believing in me.”
Sumner plans to major in chemistry at Georgia Southern and hopes to become either a pharmacist or an emergency room doctor. Her parents are Phil and Hope Sumner.
Portal High School
Madison Smith, STAR student at Portal Middle High School, selected PMHS band director John Gleissner as STAR teacher.
Smith, whose parents are Chris and Sara Smith, is enrolling at Georgia Southern, where she plans to major in biology with a focus in conservation biology and to minor in environmental science. Her goal is to become an environmental biologist.
Gleissner has been her teacher in band classes for six years, since the Smiths moved here from Washington state while she was in middle school.
“Mr. Gleissner and the band helped me feel more welcome and taught me how to be open to new experiences. …,” Smith said. “He has taught me life and leadership skills that I can apply to my life going forward.”
SEB High School
Hannah Parsons, STAR student at Southeast Bulloch High School, also chose her band teacher, Southeast Bulloch band director Matt Olsen, as STAR teacher.
Parsons plans to attend the University of South Florida to major in biology and then go to medical school. She wants to earn a doctorate in genetics and pursue a career as a medical geneticist. Her mother is Brandie Farmborough, her stepfather is Eric Farmborough, and her father is Michael Parsons.
In Olsen’s four years as one of Hannah Parsons’ teachers she has overcome challenges and “excelled at all of her pursuits whether they be academic, musical or personal,” he said. “I couldn’t be prouder to be selected as her STAR teacher.”
Trinity Christian School
Kathryn “Kate” Lattner, daughter of David and Lori Lattner, is Trinity Christian School’s 2021 STAR student. Her father is the school’s headmaster.
Kate Lattner plans to attend the University of Georgia to major in communication science and disorders to become a certified speech therapist.
She chose Donna McKenna, who has taught Lattner geometry, honors chemistry, Advanced Placement chemistry, AP calculus and AP physics, as STAR teacher.
Lattner called McKenna “the smartest woman I know” and “truly a Renaissance woman.” This is the fifth time McKenna has been named a STAR teacher.
Region and state
Lippincott and Newkirt will now represent Bulloch County in the Region 8 STAR competition, hosted by the Statesboro Exchange Club for an area including up to 17 school systems. This year no in-person regional event will be held, but the region winners will be announced on or after April 25.
Then the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, or PAGE, which sponsors the statewide STAR program, will host a virtual event May 17 where the statewide winners will be announced.
Hayley Greene, Bulloch County Schools public relations director, organized the local program and announced the winners Monday. With the exception of the quotes from Newkirt and Lippincott, Greene supplied the statements from teachers and students quoted in this story.