One student and one teacher at Thomas County Central High School are shining examples of the impact teachers and students can have upon each other’s lives.
Senior Austin Yeomans has been selected as the 2016 TCCHS STAR Student. He, in turn, has chosen Cary Riggs as his STAR teacher.
“I am very proud of myself and also very grateful to receive this honor,” Yeomans said. “I am glad to see that there are many ways students can be recognized for their accomplishments.”
PAGE’s STAR program is an annual recognition awarded to one member of a high school’s senior class. STAR stands for Student Teacher Achievement Recognition. It honors Georgia’s highest achieving seniors and the teachers they feel were most influential in their academic development.
Class ranking and SAT test score are among the requirements considered to determine STAR student eligibility. The STAR teacher is always selected by the STAR student.
This is Riggs’ second time and second consecutive year being named TCCHS STAR Teacher. He has taught Latin I, Latin II, Latin III, AP Art History, AP Latin, Drama I, II, III, IV and Advanced Drama.
“Being chosen as a STAR student’s STAR teacher is probably among the recognitions that I am most proud of,” Riggs said. “It lets me know that I have had some kind of impact that matters. Teaching is about passing it on and when a student says, ’This is the one that most affected me,’ well, how could your heart not be full?”
Yeomans chose Riggs as his STAR teacher because “he has had the most profound effect on my character.”
“He has been more than just a teacher,” Yeomans said of Riggs. “He has been a mentor and friend.”
Riggs says Yeomans is “an incredible student and an independent thinker.”
“I have watched him grow over the years and been amazed at the way this quiet young man has matured both intellectually and as his own person,” he said. “Without a doubt this young man's future will be a credit to TCCHS.”
Yeomans has enjoyed Riggs’ classes – he’s taken Latin I, II, and III, AP Latin, AP Art History, and Advanced Drama – and said they’ve made him both a better student and person.
“Being in his classes has taught me the value of being both a scholar and a man of character,” Yeomans said. “It’s not just about a numerical grade; it is so important to have intrinsic motivation and to work toward becoming a better person.”
His favorite memory of time spent in Riggs’ classroom is a lesson from AP Art History he vividly remembers.
“He had this alluring sparkle in his eye as he taught us about Greek sculpture and architecture,” Yeomans recalls. “It was so inspirational to see someone so entranced and fascinated by knowledge and learning.”
Riggs says teaching is “full of rewards and almost every one of them is directly related to the students.” Working with students is his daily reward and, being chosen as STAR teacher is “the cherry, on top of the whipped cream, on top of the sundae!”
He plans to retire at the end of this school year and move to Cuenca, Ecuador, where he plans to focus on writing fiction.
Yeomans plans to attend Riggs’ alma matter, Wabash College, and says he’ll take an important life lesson with him when he leaves Riggs’ tutelage.
“I’ve learned to live a life fascinated by life,” he said. “I should have joy in each new day and strive to make a lasting impact.”