Joy Zhang is appreciative of the STAR student honor recently bestowed on her at Lakeside High School, but she admits the notion of choosing a STAR teacher was a bit overwhelming.
The 17-year-old senior was recognized earlier this year as her school's STAR student, meaning she scored higher on the Scholastic Aptitude Test than any other senior in her class. Other components also are used to select the STAR student, who in turn is asked to name a STAR teacher - someone who has made an impact on the student's educational journey.
"I was kind of dreading it, because I knew I would have to choose a STAR teacher," said Joy, the daughter of Chuanlun Zhang and Mei Gao, of Evans. "All of my teachers have been instrumental in my academic journey. I wish I could have chosen all of them."
Instead, Joy gave the honor to a teacher she says also has become a "good adult friend" - Charlotte Smith, an Advanced Placement biology teacher at Lakeside High.
"I cannot tell you how honored and excited I was," Smith said. "There are so many excellent teachers at Lakeside; I think it would be a tough choice for any student to select just one. At the STAR student ceremony, she said she selected me for my unconventional teaching methods and also for instilling in her a desire to explore biology outside the classroom."
Joy has won several awards, including one in the National Epidemiology Competition and at the regional and state science fair, for her research projects in biology. Last summer, Joy and Smith were part of a research group from Savannah River Ecology Lab, the University of Georgia, NASA and the University of Nevada to investigate bacteria that live in extreme conditions in hot springs in Nevada and Colorado.
"It was great working with her in the field and seeing her expertise and hard work in a field setting, outside of the classroom," Smith said. "We had a great time."
Joy moved to the area when she was a freshman, having lived in four different states since she was born. She says her father's job - as a research scientist - kept the family on the move as he explored better career opportunities. And it's likely his influence that has given her the desire to work in the science field.
"I will probably major in biological sciences, but I don't know the specific field yet," she said.
"With students like Joy, it is easy and actually necessary to extend beyond conventional teaching methods," Smith said. "Plus, biology should be fun in the classroom and in the field, and Joy has made it that for me. She has made teaching for me a continuing grand adventure."
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