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Top students get their night courtesy of The Times' 2008 Academic All-Stars
Chestatee High’s Stephanie Davies chats with friends during Monday evening’s reception for the 2008 Academic All-Stars at Featherbone Communiversity Brenau East. Davies’ honored educator is Dana Richardson.

Stellar students and their favorite teachers got their time to shine Monday at The Times’ Academic All-Stars Reception.

A panel of judges chose 26 of Hall County’s brightest high school seniors based on essays describing their most effective educator. Students also were selected to be an all-star on criteria regarding grades, extracurricular activities, community service and test scores.

Caro Landers, the middle and upper school counselor for Lakeview Academy, said the Academic All-Stars program is a competitive one.

"(Students) have to jump through a lot of hoops to get this," she said. "The kids who took the time to do it were already accepted to college. They did it to honor their school and their family. It takes a big circle of folks to pull this off, including family and faculty."

The reception honored not only the students who made the good grades, but the teachers students said contributed to their academic success.

One by one, students approached the podium at the Featherbone Communiversity auditorium, most with their favorite teacher in tow. Many students acknowledged teachers from their high schools, while others ventured back to their middle and elementary school days to thank an educator.

"You might go 10 years and think 'I didn’t make any impact,'" Landers said. "But this is an acknowledgement and gratitude to a teacher who has had a great impact on a student."

Barbara Harkins is a sixth-grade math teacher at South Hall Middle School who Carey Miller, a Johnson High School senior bound for the University of Georgia this fall, honored Monday.

Harkins said she has had hundreds of students shuffle in and out of her classroom, but Miller stuck out in her memory for his compassion toward others.

"He blew me off my feet that he would remember me after six years," Harkins said.

Elif Alyanak, a senior at Lakeview Academy who will begin pursuing a biology degree at Georgia Tech this fall, said she wrote about Dr. Jim Robison, headmaster of Lakeview Academy. Robison doubled as Alyanak’s advanced placement literature teacher. Alyanak credits him for improving her writing skills, which before his class were at the lower end of her academic priorities.

Many teachers said they felt students’ recognition was the highest honor. In turn, many teachers thanked curious students for pushing the boundaries of teachers’ own knowledge.

Nancy Kim, a senior at West Hall High School, lauded her honors geometry teacher, Laurie Ecke.

"She helped me realize how one person can really help out the community," Kim said. "I just love her."

Ecke said students like Kim make her job a pleasure.

"I don’t really think I’ve taught her anything — she’s the one who’s taught me," Ecke said. "I hope I can be like her when I grow up."

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