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Announcing Eli Compton of Statesboro High School, Bulloch County’s 2024 STAR Student

Eli Compton of Statesboro High School and his Honors and AP chemistry teacher, Ashley Thompson, are Bulloch County's top STARs for 2024! The winners were announced at the annual Bulloch County STAR Recognition Luncheon on January 31, 2024, at Forest Heights Country Club. Congratulations to all!

Eli Compton of Statesboro High School and his Honors and AP chemistry teacher, Ashley Thompson, are Bulloch County's top STARs for 2024!

The winners were announced at the annual Bulloch County STAR Recognition Luncheon on Wednesday, January 31, 2024. The event honors top students and teachers from the community’s five public and private high schools. The event is sponsored, as well as hosted, by the Statesboro Rotary Club and additionally sponsored by the Bulloch County Foundation for Public Education.

Ashley Thompson and Eli Compton


Compton, a senior at Statesboro High School, is the son of Matthew and Stephanie Compton. He selected Ashley Thompson, his high school Honors and AP Chemistry teacher, as his STAR teacher.

Mrs. Thompson was my teacher for both Honors and AP Chemistry and both courses were some of my favorites in high school. She taught the material in a fun and engaging manner, making her class one of the highlights of my school day. I picked Mrs. Thompson as my STAR Teacher for these factors along with the enumerable others that make her an outstanding teacher.” 

Compton plans to attend the Georgia Institute of Technology where he plans to major in aerospace engineering and pursue a career in the space industry designing vehicles for autonomous and manned missions into space.

“Human space exploration has long captured my imagination from historical triumphs to an endless array of future possibilities. This fascination motivated my choice to major."

Thompson is a chemistry teacher at Statesboro High School. “Eli is one of the finest students I have worked with in my teaching career. His enthusiasm and desire to learn, especially chemistry, were evident from the first day I met Eli. Eli is a careful thinker with an eye for details and a devotion to logic, which serves him well both in the sciences and outside of them. Eli is every science teacher's dream.”

“He looks past the surface to dig deep into the amazing, incredible world of science! Both thorough and inquisitive, Eli has sought to do his very best in school and outside of school. Eli and I both have a passion for chemistry. Being named Eli's STAR Teacher is definitely the greatest honor in all of my teaching career. To be selected by a student for this award is something that I will cherish forever.”

“I wish Eli all the best in his future endeavors! I know he will be a great chemist in the future,” Thompson shared in a written statement.

Bulloch County's STAR pair will now advance to the Region 8 STAR Recognition, which will be held in March, at Georgia Southern University and is sponsored by the Exchange Club of Statesboro. They will gather with district winning STARs from 16 area counties and a region winner will be announced. The region winners will advance to the State PAGE STAR Competition and Banquet in Atlanta on April 29.

STAR Program

The Student Teacher Achievement Recognition (STAR) program, now in its 66th year, is a state program sponsored by the Professional Association of Georgia Educators (PAGE) and the PAGE Foundation. The purpose of the STAR program is threefold:

  • Recognize academic achievement in Georgia's high schools and motivate students to be good scholars and high achievers
  • Honor excellence in teaching, to promote teaching as a career and to encourage outstanding teachers to remain in the classroom
  • Demonstrate the business community's commitment to excellence in education and to increase interaction between students and the business community

2024 School-Level STAR Nominees

This year’s event recognized six school-level STAR student and teacher pairs from Bulloch Academy, Trinity Christian School, Portal Middle High School, Southeast Bulloch High School, and Statesboro High School, including a tie a Southeast Bulloch High School.

The winners and nominees enjoyed support from their families, school counselors, and principals who attended the luncheon.

These are this year's other school-level STAR student and STAR teacher nominees, from whom Compton and Thompson were selected:

Bulloch Academy

Sammy Mendez and Beth Burke

Sammy Mendez, STAR Student – Sammy is the son of Juan and Margarita Mendez. He has been accepted to the Georgia Institute of Technology and Mercer University for Early Action with the intended major of neuroscience. He also applied to the eight Ivy League schools, Johns Hopkins University, Duke University, and Emory University for regular decision, and he will hear back in late March about any further acceptance offers. He aspires to enter the medical field as either a neurologist or rheumatologist. He selected Beth Burke, his twelfth-grade Calculus teacher as his STAR teacher. “Mrs. Burke has been an influential person in my academic development at Bulloch Academy. Her Pre-calculus and Calculus classes taught me to work hard to earn my grades. Throughout my freshman and sophomore years, I learned that it was okay to struggle, fail, and ask for help various times in her classes, which led me to become a stronger student. The academically challenging environment fostered in her classroom and her guidance helped me succeed. I am very grateful for all Mrs. Burke has done for me.” 

Beth Burke, STAR Teacher – Mrs. Burke is a math teacher at Bulloch Academy. This is the fifth time in her career that she has been selected by one of her students to be their STAR teacher.Sammy Mendez is by far the most overall talented students that I have ever taught. He not only exceeds academically but is a well-defined musician that puts you at ease with his talents on the piano. Sammy is also a very talented athlete on the soccer field. I have taught Sammy in most of his high school mathematics classes, and he is an outstanding student that loves to understand all topics presented to him. Most importantly, Sammy is a joy to have in the classroom because of his kind and gentle personality. Sammy is always willing to help fellow classmates and he is an example of a fine young gentleman. I believe Sammy chose me as his star teacher because I was able to teach him new topics that challenged him and made him think differently. As a teacher, you never really know who you make an impression on. It is always such an honor when a student lets you know that you did make a difference. Thanks, Sammy for selecting me as your star teacher. I know that you will do great things in the future and I cannot wait to see what great things you do!” 

Portal Middle High School

Gage Bunch and Dennis Moore

Gage Bunch, STAR Student – Gage is the son of Edd and Stacy Bunch. He plans to initially enlist in the United States Army before later attending college and majoring in computer science. He chose Dennis Moore, his twelfth-grade pre-calculus teacher as his STAR teacher. “I chose Mr. Moore because of his unwavering commitment to being the best teacher that he could possibly be. His ability to explain difficult mathematical concepts in such a way as to make them simple to understand is amazing. There was never a day I left his class feeling like I did not learn something. Not only that, he was able to make the learning process fun and entertaining. I enjoyed every day of the three years that I was in his class. Before I had Mr. Moore, I did not have fun with math in the least bit. On top of all of that, he taught everything thoroughly and did not skip over anything. I always felt prepared to take a test or quiz, and I also felt prepared to take the SAT as well. Because of him, I was able to do as good as I did.” 

Dennis Moore, STAR Teacher – Mr. Moore is a math teacher at Portal Middle High School. This is the sixth time that he has been selected by one of his students to be their STAR teacher. “It is a great honor to be selected by Gage Bunch as his STAR Teacher. Gage is an outstanding student who is extremely intelligent and highly motivated to do his best. He was always willing to help his classmates when they were having difficulties, so it felt like having a student teacher in the room. I feel that Gage really enjoys being challenged academically which may have been the reason for his selection.” 

Southeast Bulloch High School (Tie)

Danielle Hibbs-Heiser and Victor Lee

Victor Lee, STAR Student – Victor, the son of Jisun Choi and Jaehyuk Lee, plans to attend the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and major in finance. His future career aspirations are to become an investment banker. He selected Danielle Hibbs-Heiser, his tenth-grade Advanced Placement Biology teacher to be his STAR teacher. “Science and biology have always been a struggle for me,” Lee said. “Mrs. Hibbs-Heiser personally guided me through my rough spots and moments when I doubted myself. Her class was one of four AP classes I took that semester. When I was overloaded and stressed by coursework, she always made sure I understood everything before a test and helped me understand topics I struggled with. That sophomore class was one of my most memorable classes, making it through with my table of friends and Mrs. Hibbs-Heiser. She showed me that I could overcome an AP science class, something I was scared of before I took her class.” 

Danielle Hibbs-Heiser, STAR Teacher – Mrs. Hibbs-Heiser is a science teacher and STEM coach at Southeast Bulloch High School. Victor Lee selected her as his STAR teacher. “Victor Lee is an incredible, tenacious, and ambitious young man who is going to take the business/finance world by storm. I had the great privilege of teaching Victor during his freshman and sophomore years as his Honors and AP Biology teacher where I was able to witness his development as a resilient, well-rounded scholar who is unafraid to take on challenges and fight to achieve his goals. His sharp mind, candor, charisma, and grit are unparalleled. I know he has what is needed to find success and make his mark in this rapidly changing world. I am beyond honored to have been selected as his STAR teacher and hope that he knows that he is my STAR student, that I will always remember him fondly, and wish him the very best in all his future endeavors.” 

William Wu and Corey Green

William Wu, STAR Student – William, the son of Ji Wu and Xueqian You, plans to attend Georgia Southern University, where he is currently dual enrolled, and major in computer engineering. “I chose Mr. Green as my STAR teacher because I had a fun time in his Advanced Placement English Literature & Composition class, learning a lot about poems and all sorts of material, along with him being an entertaining teacher.” 

Corey Green, STAR Teacher – Mr. Green is an English teacher at Southeast Bulloch High School, where he taught William in the eleventh grade. “William is a star student, so of course he tests well, and of course he is conscientious about his grades. It is easy for students with those abilities either to get by on their wits, or to be so outcome-focused that the learning becomes a means to an end. What I appreciate about William is that he does not take the shortcuts. He is thorough and earnest about his learning. In my class, a Literature class, one that will likely play no role in his professional life, he worked diligently to understand highly theoretical principles, rather than doing just enough to make the grade. William deserves this designation. I hope the best for him.” 

Trinity Christian School

Garrett Suggs and Ken Miller

Garrett Suggs, STAR Student - Garrett is the son of Vince and Tammy Suggs. He plans to pursue a degree in computer engineering and to one day work as a hardware engineer, where he wants to compile research and design more efficient computer systems. He has applied to the Georgia Institute of Technology, Duke, the University of Georgia, Clemson, and Auburn University. He chose his eleventh-grade history teacher, Ken Miller, as his STAR teacher. “Math and science have always been my passions. Technology constantly advances, and I want to be a leader in this exciting field. Although I am more of a math and science guy, I have chosen Mr. Miller, my history teacher, as my STAR teacher. I have had Mr. Miller as a teacher for four years. He has taught me Geography, Church History, Civics and Economics, AP US History, and Dual Enrollment World History I and II. Mr. Miller has always taught every class conversationally, keeping me engaged and interested in learning. He treats every student with respect and kindness in a highly understanding yet fair way. One of the things I value most about him is his willingness to answer questions and his consistency. I never had to guess what was expected, and he ensured we always knew what to do as a class. Mr. Miller has played a crucial role in shaping my life as a student and person. Through how he has treated me and my peers, Mr. Miller has taught me to look at a person as a human, not just their position in life. I am grateful for the years I have been under his leadership.” 

Ken Miller, STAR Teacher – Mr. Miller is a history teacher at Trinity Christian School where he taught Garrett in the eleventh grade. “I always enjoyed having Garrett in class. He was a bright and talented student. As importantly, he was always willing to help and serve others. I am very honored to be his STAR teacher for my small part in his education.” 

STAR Program Qualifications

To be a school-level STAR, a student must be a member of their school's senior class cohort, have the highest score on a single test date on the College Board's Scholastic Achievement Test (SAT) and by the end of their junior year be in the top-10 percent or top 10 students of their senior class cohort based on grade point average. Their scores on their test may not be super scored by combining best scores from portions of the test from multiple test dates, and scores must also be equal to or higher than the SAT national average scores, for Reading and Writing and Math. 

The STAR program begins each year in participating high schools throughout Georgia when the STAR Student is named and chooses a STAR Teacher to share in this recognition. The students and their teachers are honored by their schools and receive special recognition in their communities from one of the more than 170 statewide civic organizations and businesses that serve as local district sponsors of the STAR program. Students then compete for region honors. Region winners compete for the honor of being named State PAGE STAR Student. STAR Teachers continue on with their STAR Students at every level of the program.

Hayley Greene, Bulloch County Schools Public Relations Director provided all of the information for this story and served as the emcee for the program.

Bulloch County Schools - District Coordinating Sponsor

Bulloch County Schools serves as the district coordinator for the program. The Bulloch County Foundation for Public Education supports Bulloch County Schools’ role, by underwriting the financial costs associated with the local, regional, and state level STAR events. The Statesboro Rotary Club also provides financial assistance for the local recognition luncheon and provides a public forum to showcase the school-level STARs.

Professional Association of Georgia Educators

PAGE is the state’s largest and fastest-growing educator association. Deeply committed to excellence in public education, PAGE provides legal coverage, legislative advocacy, and professional learning opportunities to more than 95,000 teachers, administrators, and school personnel. PAGE honors outstanding students and educators and encourages academic excellence through competitive programs such as PAGE STAR, the PAGE Academic Bowl for Middle Grades, and the PAGE Georgia Academic Decathlon. For more information, visit their website at

Congratulations to all of the 2024 STAR winners and nominees!