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Whitlock now Bulloch County STAR student
Bulloch Academy senior shares honor with STAR teacher Shuford
star student
Bulloch Academy's Ansley Whitlock, far left, is congratulated by teacher Sommer Shuford as the pair are introduced as the Bulloch County 2020 STAR Student/Teacher at the Forest Heights Country Club on Monday, Feb 3. - photo by By SCOTT BRYANT/staff

Having been accepted to the University of Georgia’s Honors Program but awaiting decisions from 12 other colleges, Ansley Whitlock, Bulloch County’s STAR student, remains undecided on which she will attend, but in a good way.

Whitlock, who arrived at Monday’s luncheon meeting as Bulloch Academy’s STAR student, hugged her chosen STAR teacher, Sommer Shuford, when they were announced as the countywide 2020 STAR student and teacher.

“I’m really proud of her,” Shuford said afterward. “I knew back in the sixth grade that she’s a hard worker. She works hard to achieve any goals she sets, and she’s constantly challenging herself in her academics and extracurricular activities, and she’s just a bright young lady, but just as sweet as she is smart.”

Ansley, 17, is oldest of the three children of Dr. Austin Whitlock and Heather Whitlock. Her younger sisters are Katherine and Harper. Her father is a local pediatrician; her mother works as an account specialist in the same practice, Bulloch Pediatrics. Both parents attended Monday’s luncheon and confirmed that they are very proud of Ansley.

At Bulloch Academy she is president of the Y Club and vice president of the school’s National Honor Society Chapter. She also dances with the Statesboro School of Dance.

Statesboro Rotary Club President Jim Benton revealed the countywide winners after Jonathan Shaw, from the Bulloch County Foundation for Public Education, announced the STAR students and teachers from five participating high schools and had them line up across the front of the room. Hayley Greene, Bulloch County Schools public relations director, explained that the school system now sponsors the Student Teacher Achievement Recognition program locally, working with the foundation and club and two private schools that participate as well as the three county high schools.


Role of SAT scores

Statewide, the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, or PAGE, Foundation sponsors the program, now in its 62nd year here. STAR students are high school seniors chosen for having their schools’ highest total score on the SAT college admissions exam at a single sitting and must also rank among the top 10% of their graduating class in grade-point average.

Whitlock’s SAT score was 1550 out of a possible 1600. She said she hadn’t expected to win the countywide award.

“I’m very shocked, but, I mean, it’s a good shock,” she said.

Each school’s STAR student gets to choose her own STAR teacher with whom to share the honor, from all teachers who have taught them over the years.

As she noted, Sommer Shuford first taught Whitlock in sixth grade. That year, Shuford filled in teaching middle school science. But she is really a math teacher, and later taught Whitlock Pre-Algebra and Algebra I.

BA Counselor Kinsley Baker was one of the school staff members who attended Monday’s awards luncheon.

“Ms. Kinsley told me back in December that I was going to be the  STAR student for Bulloch Academy, and she said she  was going  to give me a couple of days to choose my STAR teacher, but  I already knew it was going to be Ms. Sommer,” Whitlock said. “She’s great. She’s one of the best teachers I’ve ever had. I really love Ms. Shuford.”

This is Shuford’s first time as a STAR teacher, but she was also Bulloch Academy’s 2018-19 Teacher of the Year. “It’s been an honor for sure, very humbling,” she said of the consecutive recognitions.

Shuford attained her bachelor’s degree in middle grades education from Georgia Southern University. She has 11 years teaching experience and is now in her 10th year at Bulloch Academy.

Monday, all five STAR student and teacher pairs received award plaques during the Rotary meeting at Forest Heights Country Club.


Portal Middle High

Steven “C.J.” Oglesby, 17-year-old son of Steven and Linda Oglesby of Portal, is Portal Middle High School’s STAR student. He has attended the two public, community schools in Portal, beginning with Portal Elementary, since he was 4. He has been accepted to Georgia Southern University and plans to major in nursing.

Oglesby chose PMHS Band Director John Gleissner as the school’s 2020 STAR teacher. Gleissner has been the Portal school’s band director six years after serving previously for nine years as Statesboro High’s percussion ensemble and drum line instructor and two years as its assistant band director.


Southeast Bulloch High

Andrew “Drew” Hart, 17-year-old son of Andy and Cindi Hart, is Southeast Bulloch High School’s STAR student. He has been accepted to the University of Georgia.

As his STAR teacher, Hart chose Susan Boddiford, who retired in 2018 after 31 years as an educator. That included 17 years at Southeast Bulloch High School, where she was Teacher of the Year in 2014, and 14 years at Georgia Southern University. This is the sixth time she has been selected as a STAR teacher.

Boddiford was Hart’s 10th-grade math teacher, and he credits her with teaching him math that he can apply to everyday life.


Statesboro High

Eletria Biswas, 17, is Statesboro High School’s STAR student. Her mother is Juthika Golder. Biswas has been accepted to Yale University and to Georgia Tech but is awaiting other schools’ decisions before she selects her college destination.

She plans to major in mechanical engineering or materials science, hoping to focus on sustainability and  creating alternatives to harmful single-use plastics.

Biswas chose environmental science and STEM research teacher Richard McCombs as her STAR teacher. This is his third time as Statesboro High’s STAR teacher, and he was Region 8 STAR teacher in 2012. McCombs has been an educator 32 years, including 18 years at Statesboro High.


Trinity Christian

Blair Neal, 18-year-old daughter of David and Sharon Neal, is Trinity Christian School’s STAR student. She has been accepted to both Covenant College and Georgia Southern but is still deciding which school to attend. She plans to major in accounting.

Neal chose Tracy Batchelor as STAR teacher. She has taught for 10 years so far, serving at the high school and college levels, including at Trinity, South Effingham Middle School and Shorter University.


Region and State

Whitlock and Shuford will now represent Bulloch County at the Region 8 STAR luncheon, hosted March 18 by the Statesboro Exchange Club. County-level winners from 16 school systems are invited to the event in the Department of Information Technology Building on Georgia Southern’s Statesboro  campus.

Winning students and teachers from 11 regions will then advance to the PAGE-sponsored Georgia STAR banquet, to be held April 29 in Duluth.

The Statesboro Herald will profile each STAR student in an upcoming Lifestyles section.


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