WARNER ROBINS -- For Willa Wang, its just the beginning. A senior at Houston County High School, Wang is preparing to go to college and dedicate her life to helping others.
For Sherin Hinnant, its time to retire from a career spent influencing young people, such as Wang. An English teacher at Houston County High School, Hinnant plans to retire this year after 40 years as an educator.
Wang and Hinnant embraced each other Wednesday, as they won the Houston County STAR student and teacher awards. The Student Teacher Achievement Recognition, or STAR, rewards students based on their academic performances. Winners make high scores on the SAT, or they are in the top 10 -- or top 10 percent -- of their classes. The student then chooses a teacher to be honored.
Now, Wang and Hinnant will compete in the regional STAR program, which will send a winner on to the state competition.
Wang and Hinnant competed against other honorees from schools in Houston County. They were student Hunter Craft and teacher Patricia Ogletree from Northside High School; student Jacob Turner and teacher Debra Anderson from Perry High School; student Emily Deyton and teacher Jeremy Williams from Veterans High School; student Brendan Kennedy and teacher Louis Leskosky from Warner Robins High School; and student Gehrig Broxton and teacher Grady Knight from The Westfield School.
It was exciting, Wang, 18, said about winning the district award. I am definitely thankful for all the teachers who helped me.
Wang chose Hinnant for the teacher award because the rigor of her classes made Wang a better student, and Wang also appreciated the relationships Hinnant forms with her students, she said.
It was the eighth time Hinnant has been named a STAR teacher, but Tuesday was extra special because its her last year as a teacher.
The experience is humbling, she said, and Hinnant advises young teachers to stay passionate about teaching and challenge their students. Its a piece of advice she has applied to her own career, which has made an impression on students, such as Wang.
Wang is an amazing individual -- not just because of her test scores, not just on her report card -- but for her leadership, her service to the community, Hinnant said. For her to have chosen me is such an honor.
Wang isnt yet sure which college she will attend this fall, but she wants to be involved in service opportunities. Wang is no stranger to volunteering her time. She has founded a club called Helping Out the World, which tutors students and aids education efforts in Darfur. She has spent time volunteering for the local hospice and bereavement camp for children.
The community has shaped me, Wang said. So I want to be able to give back.
To contact writer Jenna Mink, call 256-9751.