Some of Loudoun County’s brightest high school seniors were honored during the 33rd Annual Excellence in Education Banquet on Sunday.
The 287 students recognized at the event ranked in the top 5 percent of their class academically during the first three years of high school. Student honorees also got to invite one teacher who most influenced their pursuit of academic excellence as a guest to the banquet.
This year, two of the 238 teachers who were invited to the event by their students were Excellence in Education honorees as high school students seven years ago.
Michael Vereb, a Park View High School social science teacher, attended the event in 2008 and said he’s more impressed by the students today who make the cut to be an honoree.
“It was definitely a big deal. You had to have a 4.0 GPA or better,” he said. “But now they just take the top 5 percent of each class. I wouldn’t have made it under the current standards.”
Park View senior Trevor Andrus said he chose Vereb as his guest because he offers real-life lessons in the classroom. For example, he showed the students all of his school loans, how the interest rates added up over time and what it really took to pay off his college tuition.
“He shows us all these things we’re going to have know but no one really talks about,” Trevor said. “You can tell he really cares about how our life goes, not just economics.”
Mel Vahsen, who teaches AP Calculus and Algebra 1 at her alma mater, Loudoun County High School, remembers her senior year being an exciting time, and the Excellence in Education banquet was among the highlights. Now, she feels like she gets to help her students celebrate their hard work. She was the guest of three students Sunday: Tori Hinchberger, Taylor Nelson and Shrayanshu Singh.
“It’s a special time in their lives—students are making college decisions and looking back on what they’ve accomplished—so it’s really cool that they pick you to be there to share it with them,” she said.
The idea of celebrating excellence in education was introduced in 1983 by Al Sowards, who then served as Loudoun County Public Schools social studies and gifted program supervisor. The first banquet was held at Leesburg Baptist Church with 18 students being honored. The event is now split into two banquet sessions each year at the National Conference Center to fit the hundreds of student honorees, their family members and their teachers.
Thirty-six students were recognized for their selection as National Merit Scholarship semifinalists and seven for selection as a National Hispanic Recognition Scholar.
Since its inception, the Excellence in Education Banquet has honored 4,723 students. See the full list of student honorees here.