Peach County High senior earns STAR honor

jmink@macon.comFebruary 28, 2013 

FORT VALLEY -- Karen Barragan doesn’t really like to study, and she is not a fan of history.

But, the 17-year-old Peach County High School senior has earned the top SAT score in her district, and she chose history teacher Bethany Copeland as the educator who had the most impact on her.

Barragan and Copeland were recognized Thursday during Peach County’s Student Teacher Achievement Recognition or STAR awards at the Kay Community Center. STAR students are chosen based on their SAT scores, and they must be in the top 10 percent of their class. Barragan now will go on to compete in the regional STAR awards.

Barragan, who plays tennis and reads in her spare time, earned a 1,780 on the SAT -- the highest possible score is 2,400. Like most teenagers, Barragan does not like studying, but she works hard because she wants to attend college. She is not yet sure which college she will attend, but she plans to major in biology or biomedical engineering.

“I don’t like studying, but I know it will get good test scores,” she said. “And I don’t like to get bad grades.”

Barragan’s parents, who immigrated to the United States from Mexico, said their daughter will often disappear in her room for hours while studying.

“We’re extremely proud of her,” Barragan’s mother, Maribel Barragan, said.

STAR students are prompted to nominate a teacher, who has had the biggest influence on them. Even though history is far from her favorite subject, Barragan chose the teacher who made the subject enjoyable for her.

“I don’t really like history, but she was the best teacher I had for history,” said Barragan, of Byron. “I just loved her class.”

Copeland gains students’ interest by simply listening to them and having a sense of humor.

“I try to teach students like they are my equals, because some of them really are,” she said.

Copeland has been teaching for six years, and she has been at Peach County High School for three years. Earning such recognition “is affirming,” she said. “It makes it a lot easier to deal with what teachers have to deal with.”

Jean Wacaster, associate dean of education at Fort Valley State University who spoke during Thursday’s ceremony, mentioned some of those challenges that teachers encounter.

It isn’t a pay check that motives teachers, such as Copeland, to inspire students, Wacaster said.

“Education is not a job. It’s a calling,” she said.

To contact writer Jenna Mink, call 256-9751.

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