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Dawson County student and teacher reaching for the STARs
1. STAR pic 1
From left, Dawson County STAR Teacher Marcia Faircloth and STAR Student Daniel Bettis were recognized at the Dawson County Lions Club meeting Monday night. Joining them were Dawson County Lions Club president Don Cargill and Bettis parents, Lisa and Harold. - photo by David Renner Dawson Community News

Some students plan and schedule to be the best student they can be. For others, hard work and a thirst for knowledge help them reach for the stars.

Daniel Bettis is one of those students. The son of Harold and Lisa Bettis, he is the 2015 Dawson County High School STAR student.

"I was very surprised," he said. "I had thought that it would be another student. I'd always focused more on the learning aspect rather than the studying and testing."

The Student Teacher Achievement Recognition, or STAR, program is organized annually by the Professional Association of Georgia Educators Foundation.

Honorees must have the highest score on a single test date for the three-part SAT taken through November of their senior year. Their SAT scores also must be equal to or higher than the latest available national average on the math, critical reading and writing sections.

In addition, the students must be in the top 10 percent or top 10 students of their class based on grade-point average.

"One of the things we are proud of is being the local sponsor of the STAR student and teacher program," said Dawson County Lions Club president Don Cargill. "The [Professional Association of Georgia Educators] group in Atlanta took the program over from the Georgia Chamber of Commerce years ago and they have done a tremendous job."

Cargill said that he hopes that others will see Bettis' hard work, too.

"[Daniel] is a delightful young man," he said. "We hope to go with him through the regional outfit and we hope to go to the state level with him."

Bettis' teachers said that it was no shock at all that he was named this year's STAR student.

"It came as no surprise when Daniel told me he was the 2015 STAR student," said Riverview Middle School gifted teacher Marcia Faircloth. "I've known him since he came to Riverview in 2008, the same year I arrived there."

However, Faircloth said that it was Bettis' announcement that she was his STAR teacher that caught her by surprise.

"The surprise, however, was that he chose me as his STAR teacher," Faircloth said. "I first thought it must have been a mistake, because I always believed that only high school teachers could be named, but [Dawson County High School Councilor Marjorie Poss] confirmed to me that it could be any teacher in a STAR student's education career."

Bettis said that he thought long and hard about his decision, but he always came back to the same place - his learning roots.

"It was a very difficult decision," he said. "I've had so many great teachers, but it all went back to the foundation that Mrs. Faircloth built for me, to be curious in learning."

Faircloth taught Bettis for most of his middle school tenure, with him "having endured her" through two gifted sixth grade classes, two gifted seventh grade classes and three gifted eighth grade classes, in Faircloth's own words.

"I thank Daniel for this honor and I believe every teacher he has had would agree when I say that Daniel always made us look good," she said.

Bettis will go on to represent Dawson County at the regional STAR student competition on March 17 at the University of North Georgia.