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Savannah student named regional STAR
Jonathan Avila and father, William Avila, honored
Regional STAR student winner and Jenkins High School (Savannah) senior Jonathan Avila, left, and his STAR teacher and father William Avila, center, are congratulated by Linda Woods after Wednesday's regional STAR Student/Teacher banquet at Georgia Southern University. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

    H.V. Jenkins High School’s Jonathan Avila, who earlier this year was named the Chatham County STAR Student, took home top honors during the Region 8 STAR Student/Teacher Banquet held Wednesday at Georgia Southern University.
    Avila was named the 2013 Region 8 STAR (Student Teacher Achievement Recognition) by virtue of outranking 15 other area students in SAT scores.
    The surprise announcement was anything but for Avila, who recorded a perfect 2400 on the exam. 
    “It is exciting,” he said. “I’ve always tried to be at the top of my class. I spend a lot of hours studying. I began studying for the SAT nearly half a year before the actual test.”
    Joining in the celebration was Avila’s teacher, and 2013 Region 8 STAR Teacher, William Avila, whose influence has extended well beyond the classroom.
    “It is always great to be recognized by your students. A lot of teachers are never recognized, even though they always make a difference in people’s lives,” said William Avila, who is also Jonathan’s father and a math teacher at Jenkins High. “(Receiving this honor) feels great. I have been a STAR teacher before, but this one is special because of the person who chose me.”
    William Avila has been his son’s “star teacher” for 18 years.
    “To have it told in front of witnesses that you’ve done something well, as a parent, is great,” he said, laughing.
    During a speech given earlier in the program — each county’s STAR Student spoke — Jonathan Avila said of his father: “I chose my teacher because he has given me the tools that I need to succeed in multiple environments. He also introduced me to the beauty and wonder of computing mathematics.”
    The STAR Teacher said his son is a “tenacious student,” with a never-ending love for learning.
    Also, “He is a frustrating student,” William Avila joked. “He will not let me make any mistakes. He is quick to jump on an error. His fellow classmates love that aspect about him.
    “It is exciting,” he continued. “You have to be on top of your game to teach him.”
    Jonathan said he will pursue a computer science degree at the Georgia Institute of Technology and eventually enroll in graduate school to seek a doctorate.
    He and his father/teacher will advance to the state STAR Student/Teacher competition in Atlanta next month.
    Wednesday’s banquet — sponsored by the Professional Association of Georgia Educators Foundation, the Georgia Department of Education, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, several regional organizations and a host of others — also honored students from Bryan, Bulloch, Candler, Effingham, Emanuel, Evans, Liberty, Long, Montgomery, Screven, Tattnall, Toombs, Treutlen, and Wheeler counties, and Vidalia city schools. 
    During the program, Bulloch County STAR Student Asa Johnson praised his STAR teacher, Jillian Perry.
    “Ms. Perry is a great teacher,” he said. “You can tell that she really cares about her students. I’m lucky to have had her.”
    About Johnson, Perry said: “His talents really run the gamut. He is a joy in the classroom and I think that his peers love and respect him as much as his teachers do. Asa does everything he can to make is school and family proud.”
    Jeff Harrison may be reached at (912) 489-9454.

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