Melodee Lackey of Flowery Branch High School knows that mathematics isn’t typically a favorite subject among most students, but she strives to change that mentality.
“I just knew that teaching was what I wanted to do (at an early age),” Lackey said. “I always excelled in my high school math classes, and I wanted to hopefully change other students’ minds to teach them to enjoy math.”
Kevin Jiang, Hall County’s 2021 STAR student, said when he took Lackey’s advanced placement calculus class his junior year at Flowery Branch High, he was moved by her passion for math.
“She’s someone who takes her job very seriously,” Jiang said. “Oftentimes, if we perform poorly on a test, she was more impacted by that than we were. That showed me how much she cares that we’re learning the content. She genuinely wants to be a good teacher.”
Jiang said these reasons inspired him to choose Lackey as his STAR teacher.
Lackey, who is in her 28th year of teaching, said she considers the STAR teacher award more of an honor than being named Teacher of the Year because it’s student selected.
“I was very humbled,” she said. “That’s a great feeling to know you have made a difference in your student’s life.”
Lackey said in fall 2019 she taught Jiang for two class periods. She shared that it didn’t take long for her to see not only his gift for math, but his drive to work independently and seek information beyond the lesson plans.
“He’s the type of student who loves to be challenged,” she said. “He would do my required assignments, and he’d like to go off and find his own calculus problems. If I had a whole classroom of Kevins my job would be very easy.”
Jiang said he has always been drawn to mathematics, relishing in the logic and finding patterns and trends among numbers.
“After spending a lot of time on a problem and seeing it all come together, you get this feeling of euphoria,” he said.
During his sophomore year of high school, the graduating senior said he was first introduced to the stock market by a friend of his. Through his peers’ encouragement and immersing himself in finance research, he decided to invest.
“It’s definitely not something I want as my sole income, but a source of passive income,” he said. “It’s something I’ll continue to pursue into my future.”
Jiang credits his thirst for knowledge to his parents, who are originally from China.
“They didn’t have access to all the education we had today, and they’ve emphasized how important it is to get a good education and absorb as much information as you can,” Jiang said. “I see how hard they struggle every day working to provide for us.”
Jiang said he plans to start his first semester at Georgia Tech this June, where he’ll earn a bachelor’s in computer science. The graduating senior said a goal of his is to start a small business in college.
Lackey said she wishes Jiang the best in his future endeavors and hopes her former student will be able to find a career that intertwines his passions.
“We have lots of great students, but he truly loves learning and gaining knowledge,” she said.
County system STAR students and teachers
Cherokee Bluff High School
Austin Wallace, student
Jeremy Purdy, teacher
Chestatee High School
Abby Boyer, student
Jeff Kelly, teacher
East Hall High School
Andrea Lopez, student
Daniel Stainback, teacher
Flowery Branch High School
Kevin Jiang, student
Melodee Lackey, teacher
Johnson High School
Rosa Figueroa, student
Scott McConnell, teacher
Lanier Christian Academy
Esther Cho, student
Katy Foster, teacher
North Hall High School
Anna Catherine Brewer, student
Chris Haynes, teacher
West Hall High School
Ashley Alcantar, student
Rubia Castro Diaz, teacher