The 17-year-old senior, son of Florie and Robert Coggins, had to hustle back from Harvard University to attend Wednesday’s LaGrange Rotary Club luncheon, where he was named county winner in the annual Student Teacher Achievement Recognition program.
Coggins and his STAR Teacher, LaGrange High math instructor Kenny Moore, were joined by STAR students and teachers from four other high schools: Sara May Austin and Spanish teacher Julie Dalfrey from Callaway High School; Jennifer Anne Sargent and drama teacher Brittany Hale of Troup High School; Cameron Kilpatrick and science teacher Janice Ingram from LaGrange Academy; and Kathryne Kelley Scott and English teacher Frances Daniel from Lafayette Christian School.
The STAR Student is a school’s senior with the highest SAT score in a single sitting and who must be in the top 10 percent or top 10 students in his class.
Already accepted at Yale, Coggins was in Cambridge, Mass., on Tuesday, visiting Harvard. His impressive SAT score - 2,360 out of a possible 2,400 - included perfect scores of 800 on both the verbal and math sections of the exam.
Coggins, who plans to study economics and mathematics in college, drew laughs as he shared his “most memorable educational experience” with the Rotary audience at Highland Country Club.
“The most memorable part of my school experience didn’t happen in a classroom,” he said. “My most cherished memories are from Cracker Barrel at 6:45 in the morning.”
Moore, a five-time STAR Teacher, regularly hosts study sessions outside the school environment. Because he and his students have busy afternoons and evenings, early mornings are an “ideal” time for extra work.
Over biscuits and scrambled eggs, Coggins said he and Moore would work on calculus problems, often debating the best approach.
“He shaped me as a student,” Coggins said. “Everything I am rests on Coach Moore.”
The veteran math teacher, also a longtime football and tennis coach, says it’s the other way around.
“After a very few months, I had taught Will all of the calculus that I knew. Since then, he has been teaching me,” Moore said.
University of Georgia-bound Troup High STAR Jenna Sargent used her Rotary speech to describe a life-changing experience. To demonstrate how exposure to the fine arts can have a positive influence, STAR Teacher Hale had her drama class work with exceptional-education students, teaching them how to put on a play.
Sargent, who “grew up” around theater as the daughter of veteran performers Jeff Sargent and Cathy Sargent, said she was uncomfortable at first, but soon made “30 new friends” as she and others helped the exceptional-education students stage the Dr. Seuss classic, “Horton Hears a Hoo.”
“Drama pulled confidence out of me and helped me to be more outgoing,” she said. “I was glad to share my love for drama with others.”
It was also an arts experience that guided LaGrange Academy STAR Cammie Kilpatrick toward a career in architecture, which she’ll study at Georgia Tech.
A former member of the Young Singers of LaGrange, her interest was sparked by sights she saw during the choir’s travels.
“I had seen so much amazing architecture,” she said, including buildings that inspired her with their beauty and functionality.
“I realized that through architecture I could use both my creative and analytical sides,” said Kilpatrick, daughter of Richard and Deborah Kilpatrick.
Callaway STAR Sara May Austin, who plans to attend Wellesley College, and Lafayette Christian STAR Kathryne Scott, who will enroll at Georgia College & State University, used their speeches to praise their STAR teachers.
“I have never before had a teacher who has the ability and strength of personality to reach all of his/her students while holding such strong, unbendable academic standards,” Austin said of Dalfrey.
Scott thanked Daniel for “challenging me to be all I can be,” and described her English teacher as a “lifeline and mentor” with a passion for literature and “the ability to instill that love in her students.”
Austin is the daughter of Dennis and Dana Austin. Scott’s parents are David and Patricia Scott.
Coggins will represent Troup County in the district STAR competition next month in Columbus.
Andrea Lovejoy can be reached at editor@ lagrangenews.com or (706) 884-7311, Ext. 237.