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CCSD Shares Tributes from Top Students, Honored Teachers

Posted On: Monday, June 1, 2020

2020 CCSD Vals Sals and Honored Teachers 6 1 2020

At the close of the school year, CCSD presents its Annual Scholar Recognition Banquet to recognize the graduating class’s valedictorians and salutatorians.  The event is made even more memorable through tribute speeches by the students to honor their most influential teacher, and the speeches those teachers then give about their students.  

While the banquet, which also is attended by their families, high school Principals, Dr. Hightower and his senior staff, and the School Board, cannot be held due to social distancing, we asked the students and honored teachers to share the tributes, so we could share them with our community.  

“It’s inspiring to hear what a positive difference our teachers make in not only the academic success, but also the entire lives, of their students.  Likewise, it’s incredibly moving to hear how these students impact their teachers,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian V. Hightower said.  “These speeches remind us all of the importance of being ‘that person’ in the life of a student.”

At graduation, these students each will receive an iPad and case, the honored teachers each will receive an Amazon gift card, and all will receive engraved plaques.  These gifts are made possible by Presenting Sponsor, LGE Community Credit Union; Platinum Sponsors, Ecolab and Poole’s Insulation Company; Gold Sponsors, Brown & Brown Insurance of Georgia and NOVA Engineering; and Silver Sponsor: True Natural Gas.

Valedictorian Anna Huller
Honored teacher: Garrick Cheyne

Anna will be attending the Georgia Institute of Technology to major in computer science and earned the Stamps President’s scholarship.  She plans to pursue a career as a software developer in artificial intelligence technology, robotics, research-based projects, “or all of the above.” 
Anna’s tribute to Mr. Cheyne: For the past four years, I have had the pleasure of starting every school day in the front row of Mr. Cheyne’s band room.  While he is an extraordinary teacher and musician, I chose Mr. Cheyne as my most influential teacher because of his care for every student’s well-being and the community he has worked countless hours to build.  Every year before the eighth-graders even decide to join high school band, I have watched him take the time to learn every single one of their names, and from that day on (even beyond graduation), he helps them grow as musicians, but most importantly as people.  I have learned valuable skills in leadership, maturity, kindness, confidence, and more thanks to his lessons that have “nothing to do with music, but also have everything to do with music,” the situations he has entrusted me to lead, and the example he sets every rehearsal.  I have watched Mr. Cheyne sacrifice sleep, personal time, and maybe even some sanity to help every single student he crosses paths with, and I am so thankful that I was able to be part of the Band of Warriors family that he has worked so hard to build into the life-changing organization that it is today.

Mr. Cheyne’s tribute to Anna: Most people who are brilliant aren’t always hard-working.  Most people who are hard-working and brilliant aren’t always kind.  Most people who are brilliant and hard-working and kind aren’t always able to become strong, decisive, vocal leaders when the situation demands precisely that kind of leadership.  Of course, Anna Huller isn’t most people. It has been an honor watch Anna grow and to learn from her over her seven-year band journey.  She inspires me to become smarter, to work harder, to be more kind, and to be a decisive, transparent leader.  In these uncertain times, it is easy to become worried about our collective future.  Students like Anna Huller are a fantastic reminder that the future is bright.  She may not change the entire world, but she will continue to make her world brighter and better in all that she does.  Of this, I have no doubt.

Salutatorian Sabrina Nguyen
Honored teacher: Heather Smith

Sabrina will be attending the Georgia Institute of Technology to major in neuroscience and earned the Zell Miller Scholarship.  She plans on pursuing a career in the medical field, possibly as a general practitioner or a family physician.
Sabrina’s tribute to Ms. Smith: I chose Ms. Smith as my mentor teacher because I felt like during the time that I was in her class, she was very encouraging in the way that worked, while also constantly offering an ear for out-of-class issues.  While I wasn’t the most confident in the way that I was studying, Ms. Smith helped me create a secure system of note-taking and studying that helped me thrive in all of my other classes.  I was able to not only build a secure system of study, I was also able to personalize my class experience a little more.  Overall, Ms. Smith has had the most impactful influence on my experience here at Cherokee High School in creating a more intertwined connection between academics and self-expression. 

Ms. Smith’s tribute to Sabrina: When I decided to enter the teaching profession, I had a vision of the type of student I hoped to teach.  Reality is different; reality in many cases was better than my glossy vision.  The depth of character and work ethic of some students challenges even their adult counterparts; this is the case for Sabrina Nguyen.  Sabrina was in my seventh period AP U.S. History class.  Although it was late in the day, Sabrina entered my class everyday like a breath of sunshine.  She approached class with dedication.  Sabrina loves the process of learning and her passion to do so was evident in each assignment while balancing a rigorous curriculum.  Sabrina used each day as a true scholarly experience and her dedication combined with her compassion made her a “go to” for help from her peers.  Her work is always exemplary, creative, and thorough.  Many students at the top of the class want to know the material, binge to obtain it and then forget the concepts post exam.  This is not in Sabrina’s vernacular.  Her love of learning is contagious; she applies her unique outlook to the problem presented and as her teacher, I was always astounded by her depth of understanding and application of an answer.  Sabrina challenges her teachers to be their best each day; she comes ready to give her best and her teachers want to be worthy of that work ethic.  Sabrina is a quiet thinker and deliberates over the best means of attacking a problem applying her dedication and creativity in a manner worthy of a Renaissance thinker.  She is a quiet Warrior with a gentle spirit and deep intellect that bring others to her and then sets them at ease; her gifts will change the world as they did my classroom.

Valedictorian Lauren Pitkins
Honored teacher: Cleve Ard 

Lauren will be attending Mercer University to major in biomedical engineering and earned the University’s Presidential Scholarship.  She plans to pursue a career as a biomedical engineer. 
Lauren’s tribute to Mr. Ard: Imagine having to walk aimlessly around the school with a blindfold on for half a day.  Finally, when the half bell rings at noon during lunch, it’s over … only to have to put in earplugs and noise-canceling headphones until the bell rings at 3:30.  Imagine wearing upside-down goggles and walking down the hallway in a zig-zag pattern, only to feel completely disoriented by the end of the class period.  Fortunately, I got to experience all these crazy things, plus much more, in Mr. Ard’s AP Psychology class.  Mr. Ard has a teaching style unlike any teacher I’ve ever had, and he made learning an adventure that was led by us, the students.  Mr. Ard cares about his students not only inside the classroom, but also outside the classroom, and during the cross-country season, he was one of my biggest supporters.  He kept my times posted on the front of his room throughout the season, and he even showed up to the county meet!  Mr. Ard has made a difference in my senior year, and my high school experience would not have been the same without him.  I am truly blessed to say that he was my teacher.  Mr. Ard showed me that learning is so much more than a grade on a report card, and for that, I will always be grateful.  

Mr. Ard’s tribute to Lauren:  As a teacher in the Cherokee County school system for 30 years, I have had the opportunity to teach and interact with all types of students.  I have been fortunate to have taught Advanced Placement classes in both AP U.S. History and AP Psychology.  Even amongst AP students, there seems to be a wide range of ability and motivation.  In that context, I would like to talk about a very talented and motivated student, Lauren Pitkins.  There are so many wonderful things that I could mention about Lauren Pitkins.  She is intelligent, athletic, and kind.  She is everything that a teacher could ever want in a student.  She is competitive both in the classroom as well as on the cross-country course.  Most importantly, she is kind-hearted, honest, and compassionate.  All the students that earn the valedictorian or salutatorian position are intelligent.  Lauren is certainly no exception in that regard.  She had a 100 average in my class, and no one was even close to that!  In a rigorous AP class, that’s unheard of.  As a matter of fact, she once missed a question on a test and I remember thinking, “Well, she isn’t perfect after all.”  I checked the test question and her response only to find that I bubbled the scantron incorrectly!  Lauren, you have really made a difference to everyone.  You are well-grounded, polite, and pleasant.  You are intelligent, motivated, and inspiring.  I have truly enjoyed the give-and-take teasing between us.  I feel honored to have been chosen to write about you.  You are a wonderful young lady and a true GRIZZLY of Creekview High School!

Salutatorian Hannah West
Honored teacher: Jason Hardin

Hannah will be attending the Georgia Institute of Technology to major in chemical and biomolecular engineering.  She plans to pursue a career in pharmaceutical research and development.
Hannah’s tribute to Mr. Hardin: Mr. Hardin is not only one of the best teachers I have ever had, but he is one of the most genuine people I have ever met.  His kindness and selflessness are unprecedented, and he makes a positive impact on every single student who walks into his classroom.  He has uplifted me and supported me through every academic endeavor and inspired me to continue an education and career involving chemistry with his incredible teaching.  There is no one else I would pick to be my honorary teacher over Mr. Hardin, and I will forever be grateful for having him as a mentor and role model.

Mr. Hardin’s tribute to Hannah: My Dear Hannah, You are, without question one of the most gifted students I have ever had the privilege to teach.  Your intelligence reaches far beyond what I have ever been capable of comprehending and honestly believe you could have learned the material in spite of me rather than because of me.  Your intelligence however, as remarkable as it is, is not what I will remember most about you.  I will remember the patience and grace with which you handle difficult situations.  I will remember the joy you share so freely with all around you.  I will remember your humility and the fact that you were never boastful.  I will remember you giving freely of your talents and never asking for anything in return.  I will remember your sense of humor and how at first, I couldn’t decide if you were being serious or trying to be funny because you, as with all good storytellers, kept a straight face.  However, if I waited just a bit longer, a wry smile would cross your face and it would make me laugh.  I want you to know that I will remember you as a remarkable human being, not just a great student.  I believe with all my heart that you have the ability to make this world a better place just by being a part of it.  I hope you will keep in touch as you move forward and I wish you all the joy and playful mischief this world has to offer.  Much love kiddo, Mr. Hardin

Valedictorian Rachel Hugenberg
Honored teacher: Margo Kemmerer

Rachel will be attending the University of Georgia as part of its Honors Program and will major in pharmacy.  She has earned the University’s Charles McDonald Brown Scholarship, the Zell Miller Scholarship, and the Etowah High School PTSA Scholarship.  She plans to pursue a career as a hospital pharmacist; “I think that the combination of service and science surrounding the industry perfectly suits my personality.”
Rachel’s tribute to Ms. Kemmerer: Mrs. Margo Kemmerer is by far one of the most incredible women I have ever met.  Her optimism and smile truly light up any room, and she always makes the days of her students better than when they walked in her class.  Not only did she tremendously improve my writing skills due to her outstanding teaching abilities, but she also served as a close friend and role model to me.  Mrs. Kemmerer is always there for her students and is their biggest cheerleader both inside and outside of the classroom.  From the moment I met her, I could tell how trustworthy and supportive she was.  Whenever I was faced with an obstacle in life, I knew I could always count on Mrs. Kemmerer to serve as a listening ear and support me through it all.  In addition, Mrs. Kemmerer exemplifies a servant heart and consistently places the needs of her community and students above her own as a sponsor of the National Honor Society, only adding to the extent to which I admire her.  Compassion, selflessness, diligence, and a fun-loving spirit radiate from her wherever she goes, positively impacting everyone around her.  I honestly cannot express how large of an impact Mrs. Margo Kemmerer has had on my life, and I cannot thank her enough for all that she has done for me these last few years of high school.  I truly hope that I can be a fraction of the remarkable woman that Mrs. Kemmerer is.

Ms. Kemmerer’s tribute to Rachel: I am truly grateful that Rachel Hugenberg has chosen me to be her honored teacher.  She is a one-of-a-kind student who will leave a legacy at Etowah High School that will remind students that strength, grit, and determination can be met with kindness, humility, and love.  Writing this note is bittersweet for me, I hate to lose Rachel and will sorely miss her positive energy and infectious smile; however, I’m truly excited about her future and the mountains she will climb.  To know that I had a part in educating such an amazing young lady brings me great joy.  Rachel takes on so much whether through sports, community service, or school, but she always has a smile on her face, and she always has something kind to say about everyone.  Anyone that meets her can tell how much she loves life and how much she appreciated the beautiful things it has to offer.  She takes the challenges that life presents to her with great strength and courage and has taught me so much about how to deal with the difficult obstacles that life has to offer.  I am forever grateful for the impact that Rachel has had on my life, and I know she will go on to continue to impact the lives of those she meets leaving everyone forever changed by her generous and beautiful spirit. 

Salutatorian Maxwell Marchetti
Honored teacher: Dr. Brian Heglund

Max will be attending the University of Georgia to major in data science.  He earned the Zell Miller Scholarship and The Baldwin Scholarship.  After earning his undergraduate degree, he plans to attend the Georgia Institute of Technology to earn a master’s degree in analytics and pursue a career as a data scientist for either a consulting company or a hospital.
Max’s tribute to Dr. Heglund: I’ve had the pleasure of being in Dr. Heglund’s class for both my junior and senior year.  As I’m sure Dr. Heglund would agree, a year-long preparation for a calculus-based physics AP exam could be very, very tedious.  Dr. Heglund might be the only person that I’ve ever met that could make AP Physics genuinely enjoyable.  I left his class everyday feeling like I understood the concepts and had a good time doing it.  He cares for his students more than any teacher I’ve ever had, and he always makes his classroom a comfortable space for students who need help in anyway, academically or otherwise.  When I missed a day of school, he would make time to go over all of the concepts that I missed one on one until I felt comfortable with them, and when I needed someone to talk to, he was always there.  I struggled throughout most of my senior year deciding what major and career I wanted to pursue in my future.  I discussed it with Dr. Heglund, and he made me promise to pick up the handout for data science on my student tour of UGA because it was the “job of the future.”  After some research, I’ve found myself deciding to pursue a career in data science.  Thank you so much for everything you have done for me Dr. Heglund.  You truly have made a difference in my life and many others.

Dr. Heglund’s tribute to Max: As a student in AP Physics C: Mechanics course, Max Marchetti resolutely engaged in his learning environment to explore an idea, answer a question, or request clarification.  I was disappointed to learn Max was not planning to take AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism.  Top students who took AP Physics C: Mechanics were expected to take AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism by default.  But Max did not care about the trappings of a student with his profile.  He was interested in making his own way along the path of his choosing.  Days before the 2019-20 school year began, Max stopped by to tell me that he had chosen to take AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism after all.  Max did not succumb to the weight of expectations.  He simply exercised his freedom of choice to do what was in his best interest.  During the spring semester, most of his peers anxiously awaited decision notifications from Georgia Tech.  But Max seemed unperturbed -- he avoided falling into the ranks of becoming a Yellow Jacket by choosing UGA.  If I did not know Max, there would be dissonance about his choosing UGA, a fine school but usually not the first choice for a student of his rare ability.  But I did know him, and his choice was intentional.  I am thankful for having taught Max, an individual who has achieved what others seldom do: courageously wielding his free will to chart his own course, while achieving at remarkably high levels. 

Valedictorian Alicia Mazzurra
Honored teacher: Tracye Bulger

Alicia will be attending Yale University to double major in biology and English with a creative writing concentration.  She earned the Jack Kent Cooke College Scholarship.  She plans to pursue a career as a scientist, writer, or baker.
Alicia’s tribute to Ms. Bulger: I have never met a teacher who is as wonderfully sarcastic as Mrs. Bulger is.  Even though our AP Lang class was a hot (and fun) garbage fire, she persistently pushed through our trash and caustic debates to genuinely motivate us to think critically about Puritan England, the complexity of racism, and the humanity of serial killers.  Along with the other amazing lit teachers that I’ve had, Mrs. Bulger has encouraged me not only as a writer, but also just as a person struggling to figure out life.  Thank you, Mrs. Bulger, for your endless stories and advice, for lending me “The Alchemist,” which lowkey is how I want to live my life, for inviting me to work on lit mag and helping us so much along the way, and just for being the hilarious, passionate, loving person that you are.

Ms. Bulger’s tribute to Alicia: In 2017, I attended the River Ridge student awards ceremony with my husband.  As the evening wore on, one name was called over and over again.  Alicia Mazzurra.  I remember my husband and I looking at each other and saying, “Who is this kid?”  As Alicia was a freshman at the time, it would be several years before I really knew.  When Alicia entered my class in the fall of her junior year, I really had no idea what to expect.  The class was a mix of many personalities and ideologies and, at times, could become quite heated.  What Alicia demonstrated in this environment was that one does not have to be the loudest in order to be the most impactful.  As a student, she was not obsessed with her grade, but instead with learning and growing.  She never asked me how she could make her score higher.  She asked me how she could make her writing better.  This love of learning has propelled her to success.  And her successes are many.  In the fall, Alicia will be attending Yale University.  While Yale is an exceptional University, what makes it so is the quality of the students who populate it.  I know that Alicia will be an influence there, as she was to the many she touched at River Ridge.  Somerset Maugham once wrote: “Almost all the people who’ve had the most effect on me I seem to have met by chance, yet looking back it seems as though I couldn’t but have met them.”  I am honored I had the chance to meet Alicia.  

Salutatorian Sathvika Narasimhan
Honored teacher: Jennifer Norton

Sathvika will be attending the University of Georgia to major in computer science on the pre-medicine track.  She earned the National Merit Scholarship, UGA Presidential Leadership Scholarship, and Zell Miller Scholarship.  After attending medical school, she plans to pursue a career as a practicing physician.
Sathvika’s tribute to Ms. Norton: Mrs. Norton has played such an important role in my high school experience.  Over the past four years, she has not only been my teacher, but also a mentor and friend.  The advice and wisdom that she has shared with me from her own experiences are priceless.  Any time I entered her room with a dilemma and had a conversation with her, I came out more confidently.  It was her classroom where my interest in computer science first blossomed.  She has had a huge part in turning this interest into a passion and helping it grow beyond the walls of the classroom.  This is where I first began to realize my passion for medicine could even further be strengthened with my newfound interest in computer science.  Beyond teaching in the classroom, her genuine interest in my progress and success encouraged me to look further and seek out more opportunities outside school.  Whether it be coming to banquets, sponsoring the coding club, or writing numerous letters of recommendation for various programs, she has happily done it all to help me succeed.  Her belief in my capabilities has always helped me feel more confident in myself.  It goes without saying, I am grateful for the lasting impact she has had on my life!

Ms. Norton’s tribute to Sathvika: Sathvika, Every teacher has students that they will always remember, and you are one of those students for me.  I still remember the quiet freshman who signed up to take AP Computer Science A four years ago.  Because I didn’t know you at the time, I was worried about how you would handle the rigorous material, but you showed me I was wrong!  You thrived on the challenge and pushed yourself to do well, not just for your GPA, but for the sake of learning.  When that year was over, you took the initiative to spend your summer at the exclusive Girls Who Code internship with Georgia Tech and State Farm.  There you used your programming skills to make a jacket for those with Alexithymia, so that they can share their emotions.  But that was just the beginning.  You excelled again in my AP Computer Science Principles course and programmed an app that calculates area, perimeter, and even Fibonacci numbers!  You also developed and led the first Girls Who Code chapter here at RRHS.  Because of your passion and initiative, you won three Aspirations in Computing awards given by the National Center for Women & Information Technology!  You took that small seed of knowledge I gave you and transformed it into something real.  You made what I taught you your own.  Keep growing, Sathvika!  I’m so proud of all you have accomplished and can’t wait to see what you do next! 01000011 01101111 01101110 01100111 01110010 01100001 01110100 01110011 00100001  Jennifer Norton
(Editor’s note: The binary at the end of the letter spells “Congrats!”)

Valedictorian Valerie Ambriz-Vill
Honored teacher: Andy Oberlies
Valerie will be attending Yale University to double major in global affairs and race, ethnicity and migration.  She earned the Gates Scholarship.  She plans to attend law school and pursue a career as a human rights lawyer.  “It would be amazing to work with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in the future.  Whatever I end up doing, I want to be serving underprivileged communities.”
Valerie’s tribute to Mr. Oberlies: Mr. Oberlies has not only been an amazing math teacher, but he’s also taught me so many life lessons along the way.  There’s so many things to thank you for: Thank you for teaching me that nothing in life is handed to us.  By giving us thousands of pages of free-response questions in preparation for the AP exam, you made us work hard to achieve our goal — doing well on the exam.  You taught me that anything is possible through hard work and dedication.  Thank you for being so selfless and for teaching me that it’s OK to ask for help.  You never hesitated to stay behind after school or come in early in the morning to help me and other students, even if I sometimes asked dumb questions.  You helped me realize that not understanding is normal, and I’ve become a better person and student because of this.  Thank you for your support.  You’ve always believed in me, and I’m so grateful for that.  Thank you for being with me every step of the way on my college journey, through the ups and downs.  I remember when I received a big college acceptance, I immediately wanted to tell you because I knew that I couldn’t have done it without your encouraging words.  For these reasons, I will miss you tremendously next year.  Thank you for being one of the best teachers I have had and will ever have. 

Mr. Oberlies’s tribute to Valerie: Valerie Ambriz is an amazing person with a very supportive family.  Her older sister undoubtedly challenged her in a competitive way but also encouraged her to perform at a very high level.  Valerie has a ton of support, but that does not diminish in any way her hard work.  While Valerie is clearly gifted, she puts in hours of work each day to accomplish what she has done.  She is the model student every teacher hopes for not because of her brilliance but because of her work ethic.  Valerie is very well-rounded and has been a part of many clubs and activities at school.  While academics have clearly been a priority Valerie has also learned the importance of a social life.  However, what I believe makes Valerie special is not the love and support she receives from her family, and not the unbelieve work ethic she has, not even being well-rounded, but it is her humbleness and kindness towards others.  She is always willing to help others understand, is kind to her fellow classmates, and is respectful of her teachers.  She invites feedback from others and wants to learn but is also willing to give help to others.  Humbleness should not be confused with a lack of confidence.  Valerie is confident but she is not boastful, and she cares for others to be successful.  She will not brag about it, but she deserves to be recognized for her hard work.  Valerie, truly one of my favorite students of all time.

Salutatorian Cailyn Hooper
Honored teacher: Marla Hooper (*no relation)

Cailyn will be attending Smith College to major in sociology.  She earned the College’s STRIDE scholarship.  She plans to pursue a career working in academia or for a nonprofit organization.
Cailyn’s tribute to Ms. Hooper: I have been honored to have Ms. Hooper as my teacher for three years straight.  AP Lang and the Arrow newspaper have shaped me to be the person I am today.  Through these classes, Ms. Hooper pushed me to be more comfortable speaking out and expressing my opinions.  Without her, I would not have discovered my own voice and interest in social issues.  After AP Lang, I started paying attention to the news.  I realized the power that language has and the ways rhetoric can be used as a tool.  For the first time in my life, I started to enjoy annotating text.  Ms. Hooper made me realize that you can use language to better the world around you.  She saw my potential and believed in me.  Although I am quiet, she encouraged me to speak out and participate.  If not for her insistence, I would not have joined the newspaper staff.  Thanks to her, my confidence grew, and I took pride in my work.  Ms. Hooper has a strong commitment to her students.  She believes in her students, working with them one-on-one to give them individualized attention.  Her teaching and guidance empowered me.  She encouraged me to work to incite change in community.  She helped me grow as a writer and as a person.

Ms. Hooper’s tribute to Cailyn: Cailyn Hooper’s soft-spoken, quiet nature belies her strong beliefs and her determination to stand up for those beliefs.  In English class, her intellect and passion revealed itself in her writing.  She didn’t often speak in class, but she communicated loudly and eloquently through her writing.  She is one of the brightest and most compassionate students I have ever had the privilege to teach.  As a newspaper journalist, Cailyn wrote to speak her truth in the pursuit of a better, kinder world.  She could take on even the most controversial subjects and instantly elevate the conversation.  The issues she chose to write about were grounded in the idea that, to quote Cailyn, “To be human is to make connections, to help others.”  Whether she was writing about politics in America or environmental justice, her focus was on helping people.  It is so appropriate that she was one of the cofounders of the Advocacy Club at Sequoyah because that’s what she does — she advocates for people who need an ally.  And she’s a strong ally to have.  As she leaves high school and moves on to college and the world beyond, I know she will continue to help others.  I know that the future world will be better, kinder, and more just because Cailyn will make it so.  Because as Stephen Hawking said, “Quiet people have the loudest minds.”

Valedictorian Hayden Johnson
Honored teacher: Loretta Muise

Hayden will be attending the Georgia Institute of Technology to study biomedical engineering.  He earned the Cobb EMC Community Foundation scholarship.  He is considering a career as a medical doctor or a career in the biomedical engineering industry.
Hayden’s tribute to Ms. Muise: Throughout my education I had many great teachers, but Ms. Muise stuck out as my most influential.  She took math, a class I had always been “good at” but never particularly enjoyed, and showed me a fascinating game existed behind it.  Ms. Muise taught me that challenging problems often have a trick inside that one must be clever enough to see.  Beyond teaching course material, Ms. Muise recognized my interest in her subject by entertaining my after class questions, nominating me for summer programs (because who doesn’t like extra summer math), and encouraging me to take the Georgia Tech distance math class.  Also, Ms. Muise cared about each student actually understanding her lessons opposed to learning them.  She dedicated time to students who were lost and any student who wished to know more.  Not only is she an amazing teacher, she is a genuinely cool person.  She motorcycled across the country over the summer and lives on a farm!  Despite her students’ best efforts, the location of the farm remains a mystery.  Ms. Muise changed my outlook on education for the better and I was lucky to have her as my teacher.  I will always remember to “work smartah not hardah” -- Ms. Muise.

Ms. Muise’s tribute to Hayden: Hayden has been very active in participating in math team tournaments throughout his four years at WHS.  This year, he successfully took on the daunting task of writing and developing all the math questions and solutions and was the emcee for the Saint Valentine's Day Mathacre at Woodstock High School  (a competition between 23 teams from 15 different Metro schools).  In AP Calculus BC, he created a culminating project for this class producing a video with a group who altered lyrics to "Old Town Road" to describe concepts he learned in calculus.  It was a very entertaining interpretation and is published on YouTube.  Hayden earned a spot at the Governor's Honors Program (GHP) during the summer of 2019.  One morning when visiting my classroom to give me an update on his studies in the Georgia Tech Distance Learning Multivariable Calculus, he witnessed the students in my classroom reviewing the concept of related rates.  He said, “I loved that topic, that’s what I talked about in my GHP interview.”  In 30 years of teaching, he is the only student who sent me a thank-you note for recommending him for the program.  He still talks about how much he enjoyed his experience.  Hayden was also the well-deserving recipient of the mathematics department academic award in his junior year and his senior year 2020.

Salutatorian Zakwan Khan
Honored teacher: Anna Grantham

Zakwan will be attending The University of Chicago and is undecided on his major.  He plans on pursuing a career in “potentially something bureaucratic or something involving an alpaca farm.”
Zakwan’s tribute to Ms. Grantham: “From the time I attempted to facilitate the adoption of an alpaca, to the time a closeted demonstration of glow-in-the-dark E. coli failed, to the time you challenged our engineering prowess in catapulting marshmallows, to the time you taught us how to manipulate pea plants, to the one time my contact in Brazil came in handy, to all the times I attempted to read the research abstracts you sent me, to all the times you told me to hush after saying certain words too loudly, to all the times I wrote too much before getting to the point; Ms. Grantham, your class has been the one wondrous constant throughout my four years at Woodstock.  No word limit would allow me to properly express my gratitude for everything you have done for me.  To limit the descriptions of you and your teachings to brilliant, dedicated, innovative, inspiring, intelligent, kind, marvelous, passionate, and selfless would fail to capture my true sentiments of the time I spent in your class and to the impact you had on me.  Simply put, Ms. Grantham, you epitomize the very notion of whom a person and a teacher should be.  I will likely never have a mentor of your caliber again, and while that notion does invoke melancholy, I know I will forever cherish the time I spent in your class.  And so, in a bit of an underwhelming and clichéd manner, I would like to conclude with these two words and eight letters: Thank you.

Ms. Grantham’s tribute to Zakwan: Some students we are meant to teach, others we are meant to learn from.  And occasionally, a student comes into our classrooms because they are meant to remind us of the adventure in both.  Since his freshman year, I have witnessed Zakwan relentlessly and passionately pursue excellence and opportunity in every academic subject he encountered.  Zakwan is unquestionably brilliant and universally talented, but his many successes are products of his hard work, resilience, and courage in the face of potential failure.  As a freshman in my class, he dove into his research with vigor and enthusiasm, and set an incredibly ambitious goal for himself: to present his research at the INTEL International Science and Engineering fair.  While internally I worried whether his goal was unattainable, he never doubted himself or his work.  Then proved he could do anything he set his mind to, when he was awarded by the National Institute of Health for his research presentation at that very competition two years later.  Zakwan, Thank you for the last four years of lessons and for reminding me not what education is, but what it can be.  It only seems appropriate that you end senior year surpassing one more expectation and achieving one more goal.  I cannot think of anyone more deserving.  Congratulations Salutatorian, you did it!  This is your moment, soak it in.  Best of luck and all my love.  Now go change the world!

NOTE: Students are pictured from left to right with their honored teachers in alphabetical order by school beginning with Cherokee HS.

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