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Senior Sarah Tinsley named STAR student
A-STAR student pic
Senior Sarah Tinsley plays piano during dress rehearsals for the drama departments production of A Year with Frog and Toad. Tinsley plays five instruments and served as drum major for the marching band for two years. - photo by Amy French Dawson County News

When teachers talk about Dawson County High School senior Sarah Tinsley there is a particular similarity in their descriptions, all of them use words that seem to say the exact same thing: She never quits.

Tinsley was recently named STAR (Student Teacher Achievement Recognition) student of the year at Dawson County High and has chosen Spanish teacher Hilda Jackson as the STAR Teacher of the Year.

The program is an initiative of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators Foundation and recognizes students annually for having the highest score on a single test date for the three-part SAT taken through November of their senior year.

The student must also be in the top 10 percent or top 10 students of their class according to grade point average.

Tinsley scored a 2160 out of a possible 2400 on the three sections covering critical reading, math and writing after what she said was "kind of cram studying the last week."

"I wanted to do the STAR student and that was kind of one of my goals," Tinsley said. "My higher goal was to do better here as far as the rankings."

Once the winner is named, he or she chooses a teacher who they feel has been of significant influence on their education.

Tinsley's drive and dedication to her own education has elicited high praise from many of her teachers.

"Sarah is very inquisitive," said science teacher Laura Hendrix. "She always takes an initiative. She is a team player. She never quits until the job is done. If the teacher does not know the answer, she will research it. She is selfless. She will help any student that struggles."

"To have her in class is challenging and yet delightful," said Jackson who explained that Tinsley is ready and waiting when the bell rings and class begins. "The bell rings and she has 15 questions. Sarah is the kind of student teachers dream of having."

The 34-year teaching veteran holds a Master of Arts in Spanish and Tinsley says Jackson helped her realize her future plans.

"In there (Jackson's class) is where I really found my passion for foreign language. That was one of the reasons I chose her. She helped me discover what I really want to do," Tinsley said.

What Tinsley wants to do is attend Georgia Tech to study foreign language with an eventual goal of studying in Spain and possibly working in international affairs or in some type of government position.

When Jackson learned that Tinsley had been chosen she immediately reached out to other teachers, knowing they would want to voice their opinions of Tinsley. Jackson's own affection for Tinsley was evident as she teared up sharing her high praise for the senior.

Ryan Zwemke, who served as Tinsley's band director for six years, is currently teaching in Germany, but promptly responded to the news.

"Sarah Tinsley has the rare combination of being both extremely gifted in many areas as well as being humble in her attitude and desire to learn. She gladly accepts criticism in order to better herself and others. As such an organized, high-achieving student, Sarah is sometimes frustrated when those she is working with don't have the same tenacity to improve as she does," Zwemke said.

"Sarah is top of the charts in ability and motivation. I can think of no other student that I have taught that would surpass her in that area."

"I have never seen someone work as hard as she does," Social Studies teacher Hank Simpson said.

"Sarah is the most conscientious and hard-working student that I have ever had," said math teacher Cindy Brookshire.

The award is sponsored annually by the Dawsonville Lion's Club. President Margaret Johnson met with Tinsley last week to present Tinsley and Jackson with their awards.

Tinsley and Jackson were also recognized on Tuesday at a banquet honoring winners in the region held at the University of North Georgia's Dahlonega campus.