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Byrd, Gittings earn title of best in class

By David Talley | Published Wednesday, May 24, 2017
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Boyds Best

BOYD’S BEST – Top Boyd students Peyton Gittings and Jennifer Byrd show off some of their favorite books. The two have stayed close throughout high school. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

In Marc Brown’s well-known childrens book, “Arthur goes to school,” the titular aardvark heads to nursery school for a day of adventure and learning. Though it’s been years since it was first read to her, the book remains one of Boyd High School valedictorian Jennifer Byrd’s favorites, even as she prepares to head to the University of Texas at Austin to study aerospace engineering.

“I just remember my mom reading to me and I’d always go through the flaps and when she was done reading it to me, I’d ask her to read it again and then I’d just open it and play with it,” Byrd said. “I’ve had this in my room forever. This is the book that made me want to read. It’s the reason I like reading.”

Salutatorian Peyton Gittings also plans to head south this fall, choosing Texas State University in San Marcos to study business.

Despite occupying two of the most hard-earned slots in their class, the two joke often, Gittings said. The grade’s top 10 percent has remained friendly, rather than competitive, throughout high school.

“Compared to other seniors [classes], we kind of just chilled out, because we knew who was in the top 10,” Byrd said. “They were competing, but it wasn’t really a big deal to us.”

No classroom provides a better example of “chill” than teacher Robin Nobles’ art room, Gittings said. Both students have enjoyed the creative opportunities of art class.

“I like the freedom of art,” Gittings said. “And I also like the planning of yearbook. I do yearbook a lot and it’s kind of artistic but you have to plan it out.”

Gittings said the coursework in other classes has also had a profound effect on her. Her favorite book, “Jonathan Livingston Seagull,” by Richard Bach, was assigned to the class in AP English.

“It’s basically an AP book, but it’s unlike any other AP book,” she said. “It’s about a seagull that just wants to find its place and he goes through different lives finding happiness. A lot of AP books are wordy, but this one isn’t. It’s more thought-provoking. Everything has a meaning, but overall it’s so simple.”

Both agreed they’d miss some aspects of high school life, including some friends, teachers and family, but not others, like high school’s rigid structure and some unpleasant classes. Joking around about their future, Gittings said Byrd’s book title may need some adjustment now that the two have grown up.

“Now it’s ‘Arthur goes to college,'” she said.

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Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Arthur Goes to School

Jennifer Byrd’s favorite book, “Arthur goes to school,” may not seem like the most grade-appropriate book for the future aerospace engineer, but Byrd said it’s the book that inspired her love of reading. “I’ve had this in my room forever,” she said. “This is the book that made me want to read. It’s the reason I like reading.”

Peyton Gittings’ favorite, “Jonathan Livingston Seagull,” defies the norms of advanced placement assigned reading. “…It’s unlike any other AP book,” she said. “It’s about a seagull that just wants to find its place and he goes through different lives finding happiness. A lot of AP books are wordy, but this one isn’t. It’s more thought-provoking. Everything has a meaning, but overall it’s so simple.”

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