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Meet this year’s STAR student and teacher
Star student
Dawson County High School STAR Student Taylor Daniel and STAR Teacher Lindsay Luchansky. - photo by Jessica Taylor

Dawson County High School has chosen its new STAR teacher and student for 2020.

Senior Taylor Daniel was recently recognized as the high school’s STAR student for receiving the highest SAT score of her class, an impressive 1440 out of 1600.

“I was surprised,” Daniel said. “I put a lot of work into it, and a lot of people helped me out with it so it was nice to see that it actually paid off.”

The Georgia Educators’ Student Teacher Achievement Recognition (STAR) program is sponsored by the Dawsonville Lions Club and recognizes the high school student with the highest SAT score in their class. The STAR student is then asked to select the STAR teacher, an educator they feel has been the most instrumental in their high school career.

For Daniel, English teacher Lindsey Luchansky was the obvious choice to be chosen as STAR teacher.

“I think it’s impossible to say all of the good things, but just how amazing she is in both the teaching and personal aspects,” Daniel said. “She let us break away from the ‘this is what you’re taught to do.’ She really helped us both personally and academically break that mold that we’ve been built into for so long.”

Luchansky’s AP Language and Composition class was one course that really helped Daniel find the motivation to improve her English skills. Though Daniel says she enjoys “a little part of each subject,” English and social studies seemed to click better with her than other subjects. Still, with a good grasp on her English skills, Daniel was eager to improve under Luchansky’s instruction.

“All of our teachers care. That’s something our school is really great about, but Ms. Luchansky takes that one step further,” Daniel said. “Both in her classroom and just in general she really tries to get to know us and make the learning environment personal to us. She tries to find a way to make it really entertaining and that definitely helped me actually have a motivation to improve my English.”

Daniel said Luchansky not only helps her students develop their academic skills, but helps them develop as people, always encouraging her students in whatever they want to achieve.

For Daniel, it meant supporting her endeavors to establish a tutoring program at the high school.

After a student reached out to the counseling office for help in his science class, Daniel stepped up to the plate to tutor her peer.

“We worked with his teacher and we worked it out, and his grades really raised and it was really nice. You got a little bit of that teacher’s pride where you see somebody really understand something,” Daniel explained. “I could connect with him in a way that (his teacher) couldn’t because I had just recently been there. That was me just in a different class.”

The experience inspired her to create a tutoring program to help other students at the high school which now has anywhere between 10 and 15 students signed up to offer tutoring services.

When she’s not tutoring, Daniel stays busy with two part time jobs at the North Georgia Premium Outlets, being an active member of BETA club and the National Honor Society, participating in Youth Assembly, playing soccer at the Developmental Academy in Forsyth County and serving as the Vice President of her class.

“Truthfully as far as Taylor’s accomplishments go, there’s not enough pages in the paper to talk about the things that she’s done and accomplished,” Luchansky said.

Though it seems like Daniel has her hands full juggling her academic work, social life and extracurricular activities, she wouldn’t have it any other way.

“It’s definitely been something that has been a struggle, however I think I like staying busy. I like working hard to be successful at things whatever aspect of my life,” Daniel said. “I like having strong relationships with the people around me. I like completing my school work. I like going outside on the field and killing it. I like that balance and I think you find that motivation and that passion to make yourself better and to have the life that you want, you’ll find time.”

Daniel plans to study economics and political science to become a criminal justice lawyer and is eyeing the University of Georgia or Georgia Tech for her degree after graduation.

When Luchansky found out that Daniel had named her STAR teacher, she felt shocked and full of emotions. It’s the first time she has been named STAR teacher in her five year career as an English teacher at DCHS.

“I’m very humbled by it,” Luchansky said. “I wouldn’t be STAR teacher if it weren’t for her being STAR student, 100 percent. I think a lot of teachers kind of feel that way. We are who we are because of what we do and who we teach.”

Luchansky teaches AP Language and Composition, American Literature and British Literature in both on level and honors courses. She is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction.

“From an early age I had a passion for teaching and also I had a passion for literature so I figured why not blend the two and try to other people develop, if not even just a passion just develop an understanding or have less animosity towards literature,” Luchansky said.

In her classes, Luchansky loves giving student quick writing assignments to help get students thinking about their voice and developing written communication in a way that resonates with her students.

“English is such a creative subject. It really does give you the freedom to be yourself. With school, so much of that freedom is taken away, but Ms. Luchansky always gave us the opportunity to be ourselves, be creative,” Daniel said. “She showed us herself too so it was like we didn’t have to be afraid to show our individuality and let that thrive. I definitely think giving us that time to talk both with her and each other helped us develop both our character and just a sense of self.”

“I strive for transparency,” Luchansky added. “If I can take any experience from my life or what I’m going through and help (my students) make sound decisions or open perspectives or broaden horizons I’ve done my job.”