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Kannapell is building on her future
Gainesville High senior Claire Kannapell, seated, is the STAR student for the Gainesville district, which includes Gainesville High, Lakeview Academy and Riverside Military Academy. Claire chose Lara Freeman, a literature teacher at Gainesville High, as her STAR teacher. - photo by Tom Reed

Gainesville STAR student Claire Kannapell wears many hats. She’s an intellectual, an electric bass player, a soccer player, a human rights activist and as of late, she’s also an artist. And she has a quirky sense of fashion to boot.

The Gainesville High School senior has dreams of attending an Ivy League school, but remains undecided about her plans for next fall at this time. Once in college, Kannapell said she wants to pursue a degree in architecture. She said she would like to study green architecture and promote its tenets in American homes.

"Especially with the environment the way it is now, I guess there’s a stress on treating the environment better, so you’re going to have to study green architecture," she said. "If you can make your house more environmentally friendly, then why not? It seems like an obvious thing."

Although Kannapell said literature has not always been her favorite subject, she selected her advanced placement literature teacher Lara Freeman, who has been at Gainesville High for eight years, as her STAR teacher. Kannapell said Freeman exposed her to classics she now calls her favorites such as "The Picture of Dorian Gray" by Oscar Wilde and "A Brave New World" by Aldous Huxley.

Last year, Gainesville High School’s STAR student Manse Jennings also selected Freeman as his STAR teacher.

Kannapell said Freeman helped her to pull a deeper meaning from the literature the class read, and those ideas have spurred her imagination and creativity to new heights.

"I think the creativity inherent in English is very important to architecture because it teaches you how to conceptualize," Kannapell said. "I think literature influences architecture more than people realize because there’s underlying themes to buildings."

Freeman said Kannapell added much to class discussions on literature where students were encouraged to arrive at answers through debate rather than through lectures that delivered answers in neat packages. Freeman said in the two years she taught Kannapell, she always made class interesting.

"I never knew what color hair she would have when she walked in or what she would be wearing," Freeman said. "I could always count on her to give a different point of view."

Freeman said she is confident Kannapell will go on to great accomplishments no matter what career she chooses, but hopes she will also continue to write. The literature teacher said after reading all of her other students’ papers, she often left Kannapell’s papers for last, as a "treat."

"It’s students like Claire that we as teachers say we get more out of having them in our class than they could ever get out of us," Freeman said.

"I’ve had two shots in the arm in the past two years, and it’s amazing," Freeman said of being named a STAR teacher this year and last. "It makes me want to keep going."