2023 STAR Students and Teachers Announced


Emanuel County Institute senior, Karly Olliff, Swainsboro High School senior, Manuel Fernandez, and David Emanuel Academy senior, Peyton Free, have been named the 2023 PAGE STAR Student for their respective schools. They each earned this recognition for academic achievement and performance on the SAT. Olliff selected Frank Wimberly as her STAR Teacher, Fernandez selected Joseph O’Neal as his STAR Teacher, and Free selected Donna Campbell as her STAR Teacher. The Swainsboro-Emanuel County Chamber of Commerce, local STAR program sponsor, will recognize STAR Students and Teachers at the annual Chamber Banquet on Thursday, January 26th. The STAR Student and Teacher system winner will be announced at that time.

About PAGE STAR Program

The PAGE Student Teacher Achievement Recognition (STAR) program, now in its 65th year, is sponsored, administered, and promoted by the Professional Association of Georgia Educators (PAGE) and the PAGE Foundation. Since its creation, the STAR program has honored nearly 28,000 students and the teachers they have selected as having had the most influence on their academic achievement. To obtain the 2023 STAR nomination, graduating high school seniors must have the highest score on a single test date on the SAT and be in the top 10 percent or top 10 students of their class based on grade point average.

STAR 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 sponsors of the STAR program. Students then compete for school system titles, and those winners compete for region honors. Region Winners competes for the honor of being named State PAGE STAR Student. STAR Teachers continue with their STAR Students at every level of the program.

SHS STAR Teacher – Joseph O’Neal

Currently an Engineering and Technology teacher at Swainsboro High School, Joseph O’Neal

has enjoyed the privilege of helping students complete CTAE pathways as a Career, Technical,

and Agriculture Education teacher. Mr. O’Neal began his teaching career teaching science

courses at Dodge County High School in 2005. From there, he moved to Toombs County High

School and taught science and agriculture classes for ten years, later moving to Montgomery

County High School to continue in science education. In 2016, his career shifted as he began

working for the Georgia Department of Corrections Academic Education program, where he

remained for three years. He returned to the classroom in 2020 and found a home at Swainsboro

High School. In addition to classroom teaching, O’Neal sponsors the competitive club,

Technology Students of America, and he founded the eSports team for the high school.

Since Mr. O’Neal works with students over multiple semesters and years, he is able to cultivate

relationships with them as they master the skills needed in their professions. While he first taught

STAR Student, Manuel Fernandez, in chemistry, he has since had the pleasure of teaching

Manuel in engineering and technology classes as well.

Mr. O’Neal saw Fernandez’s aptitude for the curriculum and the desire to do and learn more in

class early on. He said that Manuel Fernandez has the unique ability to quickly grasp the skills

and knowledge needed to be successful in the Engineering and Technology class. Manuel is

always motivated to complete the assignments and projects offered to him in class without

complaint or hesitation. Mr. O’Neal added that seeing Manuel apply the skills that he has learned

to his life outside of school is rewarding to him as his teacher.

SHS STAR Student – Manuel Fernandez

Manuel Fernandez, Swainsboro High School’s STAR student, is the son of Christopher and

Alexandra Flowers. During his high school career, Manuel participated in the Band of Gold and

played tennis. Manuel has been a member of the Beta Club and the Technology Student

Association, and he credits both organizations as being a huge part of his high school experience.

Throughout his high school career, Manuel has maintained honor roll status, received the UGA

Certificate of Merit, was selected to serve on the Citizens Bank Student Advisory Board, was

chosen as a 2023 Senior Superlative, and earned the honor of STAR Student of his graduating

class. Giving back and serving others has always been important to Manuel. In the last four years, he

has had the pleasure of partaking in two mission trips. He currently works part-time at Idea 7, an

engineering research and development company based out of Stillmore, GA, where he has the

title of product design developer. In the near future, Manuel plans to assist Mrs. Erin Youmans,

who runs a STEM program for several nearby counties. His job will be to assist younger kids

with 3D printers. This should come easy to Manuel, as this is his major hobby.

After graduating from high school, Manuel plans to complete his associate’s degree at East

Georgia State College, where he has taken dual enrollment classes since 2021. He then plans to

attend Georgia Tech as he wishes to further his education in the field of Engineering.

Manuel selected Mr. Joseph O’Neal as his STAR Teacher because of the impact he had on his

interest in engineering and future plans. Mr. O’Neal is extremely knowledgeable, and Manuel

credits him as influencing him to apply for his current job. Mr. O’Neal offers students

opportunities to learn and experience things they normally would not be able to participate in.

From starting an E-sports team to building a 3D printing farm to running a CNC machine, Mr.

O’Neal is always trying to find interesting ways to engage students in learning about the

engineering and technology world. Mr. O’Neal introduced Manuel to a large percentage of the

machines and techniques he regularly uses at work, school, and home. Mr. O’Neal allowed

Manuel to gain experience in a great environment, which is why he is his STAR Teacher.

ECI STAR Teacher - Frank Wimberly

Frank Wimberly is a 2006 graduate of David Emanuel Academy. He received his Bachelor of Arts in

History from Georgia Southern University in 2010. In 2017, he completed his Master of Education in

Teacher Leadership from Clayton State University. At an early age, he knew he wanted to be an

educator. Several teachers and coaches played an integral role in his youth. Investing their care and

sacrifice into his well-being inspired a passion to pay it forward and be “that teacher” for his students. Mr. Wimberly began his career at Johnson County High School, serving for two years as the US History and Economics teacher, as well as coaching varsity football and baseball. In 2013, he moved to Emanuel County Institute continuing to teach these subjects, as well as serving as the varsity softball and tennis coach. Mr. Wimberly was recognized as the 2020 Teacher of the Year for his school. In 2022, he was named the Georgia Dugout Club and Georgia Athletic Coaches Association, Class A-II Softball Coach of the Year. Finishing his 12th year in education, Mr. Wimberly still has a passion for building relationships while teaching the subjects he loves. He believes that academic growth must originate from personal connections and being that positive presence for his students. Karly Olliff is currently taking her third high school course with Mr. Wimberly and is a four-year varsity softball player. When asked “What makes Karly exceptional”, Mr. Wimberly replied, “Her work ethic, accountability, and an ever-present aura of positivity. She takes great pride in doing things right and doing them well. Whatever the task may be, Karly embraces it with the goal of mastery, no matter the amount of effort required. In the course of trying to be the best student-athlete she can be, she also strives to be a positive example for her classmates and teammates. She is a leader amongst her peers, who is intent on serving others while maintaining the highest levels of personal accountability. We often say ‘kids today…’ but Karly is not one of those kids. She remains grounded with humility, an affection and empathy for those around her, and an inherent determination to achieve. Her ability to personify these values, combined with a healthy dose of perfectionism, are the intangible separators that make her most deserving of this honor. She is a great example of the many positives her generation offers to the future. She is a great example of the best Emanuel County Schools have to offer. I have been truly blessed to play a small part in this chapter of her life and look forward to watching her write the rest of her story.”

ECI STAR Student – Karly Olliff

Karly Olliff, daughter of Randy and Kara Olliff, has been named Emanuel County Institute’s STAR Student for 2022-2023. She plans to attend the University of Georgia and major in either advertising or marketing to prepare her for the field. Olliff would like to research, design, and plan marketing programs for businesses and companies to sell their product or service. Some of Olliff’s academic achievements include the University of Georgia Certificate of Merit, highest average in U.S. History and Spanish I, the Academic E during all four years of high school, and recognition as part of East Georgia State College’s Bobcat L.E.A.D Society. Olliff is involved with several clubs and organizations, including FBLA, Senior Beta Club, 21st Century Leaders, and the varsity softball team. She received the Program Award for softball during the 2021 and 2022 seasons. Olliff is the current Webmaster for Beta Club and was elected Most Intelligent by her peers this year. She has also been a Dual Enrollment student since 2021. Olliff has been involved with several community service projects, including Operation Christmas Child and Wreaths Across America, and has helped gather and deliver toiletries to the local nursing home through her church.

Olliff has selected Mr. Frank Wimberly as her STAR Teacher. She says, “Every teacher I have had has left an impression on me in some way, but there has been no other quite like Coach Wimberly. He has always been a positive influence on me whether I knew it in the moment or not. Coach Wimberly has a way of making his students think for themselves, which I believe is one of the most valuable qualities a person can have. He pushes his students and players to become the best version of themselves they can be and teaches them to never settle for ‘good’ but strive to be ‘great’. I always enjoy coming to his class because there’s always something new to learn about life, the world, or whatever subject he may be teaching. Coach Wimberly is one of the only teachers I have had that has taught in a way in which the material sticks with me long after the class has ended. I also cherish the genuine care for and relationships he builds with each student. Because of Mr. Wimberly’s wonderful teaching abilities and the dedication he shows each student, he is most deserving of STAR Teacher.”

DEA STAR Teacher – Donna Campbell

Mrs. Donna Campbell received her Bachelors, Masters, and Specialist degrees in Mathematics Education from Georgia Southern University. She began teaching in 1986 at Glennville High School for one year before teaching for 29 years in the Emanuel County School System, seven years at SHS and 22 years at ECI. During the last seven years at ECI, she also taught at East Ga State College part time. She continued the overlapping of high school and college teaching for 10 years and has taught at David Emanuel Academy for five years. Mrs. Campbell was Teacher of the Year for 1996-1997, received the Georgia Council of Teachers Mathematics Excellence in Teaching Secondary Mathematics Award for 2011, and was the recipient of Crider’s Teacher Pay It Forward Campaign in 2022. She held state officer positions in the Applied Mathematics Association of Georgia as president and recording secretary and is a GCTM Conference Board Member. Mrs. Campbell has been a member of Delta Kappa Gamma Honor Society for women educators since 1989 and has held the office of vice-president, president, and recording secretary.

“Peyton is the kind of student who makes teaching easy. She asked questions when she needed clarification. She practiced her skills until she was satisfied with her results which always ended in an A. Peyton worked problems that were not part of the assignment just to make sure she could excel in every mathematics class. Peyton is a highly motivated young lady. She accepted any project or assignment with a smile. She accepted my challenge to ALWAYS do your BEST. I am so proud of her efforts in learning mathematics. She has become an independent learner which is what a teacher wants all his/her students to become.”

DEA STAR Student – Peyton Free

Peyton Free is the daughter of Bill and Haylee Free of Swainsboro and has been a student at David Emanuel Academy since third grade.

Peyton’s awards include Headmaster Honor Roll, highest academic average in 9th grade, and academic excellence in numerous subjects. She is a recipient of the Georgia Certificate of Merit, the High School Heisman, and the scholar athlete award. She is a member of the SAT 1200 Club, recipient of the College Board Rural and Small-Town Recognition Award, and is a school and district winner in the DAR essay writing competition. Peyton is Zell Miller Scholarship eligible, was nominated for the Governor’s Honors Program her junior year, and is dual enrolled at Southeastern Technical College.

Peyton has served as class president throughout high school and co-captain in cheerleading her senior year. She is a member of Beta Club, has participated in One-Act Play throughout high school, and is a state winner for personal essay in spring literary competition. In athletics, Peyton has participated in cheerleading, tennis, soccer, and track & field. In cheerleading, Peyton was selected as a 2022 Star Performer and GISA All-Star cheerleader. In tennis, she was a team state finalist, in soccer she was selected All-Region, and in track she was a region champion and state finalist. Peyton has also participated in Pennies for Patients and currently serves on the Citizen’s Bank of Swainsboro Student Advisory Board. She has volunteered with the Emanuel County Clerk’s Office, Weekend Blessings, and Vacation Bible School.

Peyton enjoys spending time with family and friends, shopping, and going to the beach.

Peyton will be attending Georgia Southern University to major in business and aspires to start her own business.

Free has selected Donna Campbell as her STAR Teacher. She says, “I chose Mrs. Campbell for STAR teacher because she has had a huge impact on me as a student. She was my math teacher from 8th - 11th grade and taught me everything I know mathematically. On days when my classmates and I were confused, she never gave up on us and always believed in us. She always offered extra help before and after class when she really did not have to. Even this year, as I took college math, she was always willing to help me anytime I had a question I could not figure out. Without Mrs. Campbell’s teaching, I would never have been successful on the SAT. To me, no one deserves STAR Teacher more than she does!”