The AJC Cup has been presented to Atlanta area high school students since 1927.
Their success in high school helped shape their profession and determine their success in life.
Five past AJC Cup winners who became educators and coaches in Atlanta and across the country shared their high school memories and updates on their careers.
RELATED: Winners of the 2016 AJC Cup for outstanding Atlanta high school students
Occupation: Teacher, Polytechnic School, Pasadena, Calif.
AJC Cup winning year: 1990
Basis of success: During high school, academic achievement made me feel successful. I had wonderful teachers who challenged me. In particular, I remember my involvement in the science Olympiad team giving me great feelings of success. Our team went to the national competition both my junior and senior years.
Why teach? I was drawn to teaching ever since high school, when I worked for the Homework Helpline through DeKalb County. Even as a young child, I played "teacher" at home in my room with teacher's manuals and textbooks that my parents found for me.
Reward of teaching: The moment the light bulb goes off for a student is the reason for teaching. Sometimes you get a facial expression that completely says "Aha!"
Occupation: Teacher/soccer coach, Charlotte, N.C.
AJC Cup winning year: 1975
Basis of success: As an athlete, I never focused on my accomplishments, but rather on working hard and getting better. Though I enjoyed success as an athlete, I always felt there were many better athletes around me. Being the AJC recipient stands as one of the biggest surprises of my life. I genuinely believe there were many others more deserving and I expected fully to help one of them celebrate that recognition.
Why teach? My father served as a teacher and coach. I admired him and most of the teachers and coaches I experienced. I had opportunities to coach at a rather young age at the YMCA and as a neighborhood swim club, and it grew on me. Since people had made such a positive difference in my life, I wanted to pay it forward.
Reward of teaching: Those moments when you have contributed to the success of a young person ... and those gracious notes years later when adults express gratitude for your efforts.
Caroline St. John
Occupation: Teacher, Lake Oconee Academy, Greensboro
AJC Cup winning year: 1994
Basis of success: In high school, positive relationships with other students and teachers made me feel successful. I was given room to grow and to lead. My teachers actively encouraged me to try new opportunities. Also, their feedback caused me to feel exceptional.
Why teach? I am a third-generation teacher. My mother and grandmother are the greatest examples of educators I have ever known. In our home, teaching is the greatest opportunity we have to touch lives, shape futures and impact culture.
Reward of teaching: Without a doubt, the most rewarding part of my career is watching students uncover their own potential. This year, my English language arts students discovered the power of their writing. Now, they are unstoppable. My career has offered me endless opportunities to see young people blossom into world changers. It is the highlight of my life.
Occupation: Teacher, Dacula High School, Dacula
AJC Cup winning year: 2012
Basis of success: I was always very academically focused and enjoyed taking challenging classes, but what really made my high school career fulfilling was participating in other organizations like the soccer team, Fellowship of Christian Athletes and student government. I truly believe that school is about more than just academics, and it was the whole "Wheeler High School package" that made me feel successful.
Why teach? When I got to college, I fell in love with chemistry during my freshman-year chemistry courses, and at the end of the semester, one of my professors offered a special opportunity for students by allowing them to apply to be student teaching assistants. Having loved the course the first time around, I jumped at the opportunity, and it was during that semester of being a student TA that I decided that teaching was what I wanted to do for real. Adding an MAT (Master of Arts in Teaching) science education has only made me more confident that this is what I'm supposed to do. I have had so many influential and encouraging teachers throughout the years.
Reward of teaching: I'm convinced that there is no greater feeling in the world than watching a student who was struggling with a particular concept realize that they finally understand it and watching that light bulb click on for the first time. I don't know if there is any other profession where you can have 10 frustrating days in a row and still have that 11th good day make it all worth it, but I'm pretty darn excited for this crazy and unpredictable path that I've chosen!
Occupation: Teacher, King's Ridge Christian School, Alpharetta
AJC Cup winning year: 2010
Basis of success: The support I received in every area of my life. High school is difficult to navigate academically, socially and spiritually. But, I knew that I had the support of my coaches, teachers, family, YoungLife leader and best friends. They showed support through challenging me, being present in tough times, and celebrating the best of times.
Why teach? My freshman-year roommate challenged me by asking what I loved doing in life. Immediately, I thought back to my schooling experience where several of my teachers at Milton High School went above and beyond their call of duty by establishing a relationship with me. They desired to know me and showed a lot of love by how they were present in my life. I wanted to do that, as well as share my life and my faith in Jesus with through teaching history.
Reward of teaching: Growth. Being a middle school teacher, I am able to watch students grow so much over the course of the school year. Middle school is a tough time, and having the chance to be in this tough place with these students every day is hard and fun. It is extremely rewarding watching a student grow into the potential you know that they have in them.