County STAR student Abigail “Abbey” McMillan sings and acts and plans to become
a music educator. But the Southeast Bulloch High School senior chose her seventh-
and eighth-grade SEB Middle School math teacher, Mary Jones, to share the honor
as STAR teacher.
McMillan said Jones pushed her harder than any other teacher ever has, even as the STAR student has progressed through high school, including Advanced Placement classes and now being dual-enrolled in some courses at Georgia Southern University.
“She always challenged her students to not just learn the material but learn how to apply it and really dig into what she was teaching, and I really appreciate that,” McMillan said Monday.
This appreciation developed with time, a blurb on the back of the printed program for the Student Teacher Achievement Recognition ceremony suggested. “While I dreaded her classwork then, I will forever be thankful not just for the knowledge but the work ethic she instilled in me,” McMillan had said.
The 17-year-old daughter of Blake and Kelly McMillan first became Southeast Bulloch High’s STAR student based on her top SAT college admissions test score and her grades in the top 10 percent of the school’s Class of 2019. STAR students then get to select one teacher they consider most influential in their success, not always from their current school.
This year the Bulloch County school system – home of public Portal Middle High, Southeast Bulloch High and Statesboro High – teamed up with private Bulloch Academy and Trinity Christian School for the event saluting the STAR students and teachers of all five schools. They received financial support from the Bulloch County Foundation for Education and also the Statesboro Rotary Club, which made the ceremony part of its weekly lunch meeting.
After all of the school-level STARS had been recognized and were standing up front, Hayley Greene, the Bulloch County Schools public relations specialist who served as emcee, announced McMillan and Jones as the county-level winners.
When interviewed after the presentation, Jones called McMillan “just the most talented, amazing student.”
“She’s just awesome,” Jones said, “a hard worker, dedicated.”
This is Jones’ first time as a STAR teacher, in about 38 years in the classroom, she said, calling it “once in a lifetime.”
McMillan sings with the Southeast Bulloch High School Advanced Chorus under the direction of Brent Whitaker and has acted and sung in a number of Averitt Center for the Arts theatrical performances. Recently she played Wednesday Addams in “The Addams Family” musical, and she was previously in “Oliver” and “The Music Man,” her mother reported. Already performing at age 10, Abbey McMillan was one of two girls who starred as Annie in the Averitt’s 2012 production of “Annie, the Musical.”
She now works in the children’s ministry and also does a lot of singing in her church, Compassion Christian.
McMillan plans to major in music education at the University of Georgia and may pursue a doctorate in choral conducting or music education to teach at the college level.
Bulloch Academy’s STAR student, Keeli Hennon, daughter of Rodney and Kim Hennon, plans to attend Mercer University and double-major in global health and biomedical engineering. She hopes to go on to medical school and then do medical mission work.
Hennon chose as STAR teacher Jessie Rushing, her 10th-grade advanced algebra teacher at BA and also a first-time honoree.
Portal Middle High School’s STAR student, Calton Bishop, son of Ronnie and Patricia Bishop, plans to major in finance, attending Georgia Southern and possibly transferring to the University of Georgia. After first attaining an undergraduate degree, he wants to pursue a master’s degree and work as a stockbroker.
Bishop chose Natasha Flowers, his 11th-grade chemistry teacher, as his STAR teacher, and cited her attentiveness to all of her students as the reason. She is a first-time STAR after teaching three years.
John “Jack” Havenar, son of Chris and Jene’ Havenar, is counted a senior at Statesboro High School and so became Statesboro High’s STAR student through his top SAT scores and rank in the Class of 2019.
But Havenar never attended classes on the Statesboro High campus, he said Monday. A Trinity Christian School student through 10th grade, he then transferred to Statesboro High for its dual-enrollment program, which lets students earn high school credit for college or university courses, up to full-time.
These past two school years Havenar has been enrolled full-time at Georgia Southern University. He plans to major in mechanical engineering and Arabic and then work for a U.S.-based company on water purification systems and emerging infrastructure in Middle Eastern countries.
He chose Donna McKenna, his 10th-grade honors chemistry teacher at Trinity Christian, to share the honor as STAR teacher. This is the third time she has received STAR recognition.
Trinity Christian School’s own STAR student Christian Scott, 17-year-old son of Damien and Heather Scott, has applied to both Georgia Southern and the University of Georgia. He hasn’t firmly decided between the two but will probably go to Georgia Southern and major in biology, he said.
Scott’s blurb on the program stated that ornithology, the study of birds, has always been a passion of his, and he said he would like to do field study on some of the barrier islands.
His chosen STAR teacher, Diane Welker of Trinity, has been Scott’s teacher in English from ninth through 12th grade.
The county-level STAR student is usually the student with the highest combined score on the SAT math test and what is now known as the SAT reading test at a single sitting. A STAR student must also rank among the top 10 students in grades, or in the top 10 percent, of the senior class at her or his school.
McMillan’s combined SAT score was 1460, she said.
She and Jones will now represent Bulloch County in the Region 8 STAR competition, hosted by the Statesboro Exchange Club for the 17-county region March 20 on the Georgia Southern campus. Region winners advance to statewide competition, sponsored by the Professional Association of Georgia Educators Foundation.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.