Stratford Academy senior Dylan Quintal picked up the Bibb County STAR Student award at a banquet Monday night.
Quintal, who is undecided on his college future, scored a 2330 out of a possible 2400 on the SAT to earn the award.
"It's incredible, and I feel so honored to be able to do this," he said.
Quintal has been accepted to the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech but is waiting to hear back from some other colleges before making his final decision. Pointing to Neil deGrasse Tyson as a role model, Quintal said he wants to study astronomy and help communicate the "power and wonder of our universe" to others.
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That goal of higher education played a role in his desire to do well on the SAT, with the STAR honor as a side benefit.
"My motivation was simply to get good scores on the SAT to get in as good a college as I possibly could," Quintal said.
Quintal chose Michelle Fleming, who taught him 11th-grade AP English, as his STAR Teacher.
Fleming has been at Stratford since 2001, other than a one-year hiatus. She has taught a variety of English and language arts classes in the Upper School and currently serves as the chairwoman of the English Department.
Quintal said he was excited heading into his year with Fleming because of her "spontaneous and fun personality" that he saw when his brother, Hunter, was in her class.
"In the single year that I had her, she encouraged me to grow as a writer and a reader and an analyzer of literature," he said.
He pointed to one assignment, in particular, among the original ideas Fleming brought to the class. One day, Fleming told them to write about a library.
"I ended up writing a 12-page paper about that one because it was such an interesting prompt to me," Quintal said.
His boldness in writing on such assignments is what made Quintal a special student, Fleming said.
"His curiosity and his courage ... has been one of my favorite things," she said.
That curiosity frequently manifests itself in outward expressions of "ooh, ooh, ooh" when ideas strike him. As a result, Fleming said she gets to see Quintal's often unorthodox thought process.
"Sometimes it's uncontrollable, and it's fascinating to watch," Fleming said.
The Student Teacher Achievement Recognition program, an initiative of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, is mostly based on the highest three-part SAT score in a single sitting from a student at one of Bibb County's public and private high schools. There also is class-ranking requirement. Each school winner selected his or her STAR teacher, and the county winner had the highest score among the school winners. Not every Bibb high school had a qualified winner.
Bibb County schools Superintendent Curtis Jones said the SAT was an appropriate measure for the honor because it recognizes college preparedness.
"The SAT is an outstanding example of an assessment that tells us where you are," Jones said.
The banquet was held at Middle Georgia State University, and David Fuller, dean of the university's School of Education, was among those who addressed the students, teachers and parents in attendance.
He said one of the main goals of the STAR program is to emphasize to students the importance of their academic endeavors.
"Our aim is to help motivate our students to be good scholars and to achieve," Fuller said.
For the teachers, he said his hope was that STAR recognition could be part of an effort to keep quality educators in the classroom.
"It is our responsibility as community members to honor excellence in teaching," he said.
The other school winners were Fabian Kopp (Central), Annagayle Lance (Covenant), Nicholas Shealy (First Presbyterian), Lauren McCue (Howard), Andy Chen (Mount de Sales), Hayley Harrod (Rutland), Shungarrius Robinson (Southwest), Emily Mixon (Tattnall), Jaron Jackson (Westside) and Haley Sissel (Windsor).
Quintal will go on to the district competition, with a banquet also held at Middle Georgia State University on March 15.
To contact writer Jeremy Timmerman, call 744-4331 or find him on Twitter@MTJTimm.