Maximus Ramirez

I still remember walking into her classroom for the first time. The 32 desks arranged into 8 groups of 4. The gargantuan bookshelf that must've had at least 500 books. The 3 computers lined up on the right side of the classroom. What caught my eye was the big, golden, fabric chair. For me, it was just another school year. It was just another year to play kickball and tag during recess. It was just another year of goofing off in the classroom with my friends as we competed to make the best paper airplanes. Normally, people have life-changing moments much later than third grade, but I'm glad I got an early start.

My third grade teacher, Mrs. Burrows, was the key to changing me from a goofball into a scholar. On the first day, she instructed the class to sign up for a website called First In Math. The website organized math lessons into minigames and would award stickers as the student completed specific lessons. Mrs. Burrows, attempting to engage my competitive side, told me that I could sit in her fabric chair if I could muster up 500 stickers by the end of the week. Usually, she reserved the chair for special occasions like birthdays. I really wanted the chair and nothing was going to stop me... not even math. The lessons on the site were never hard, in fact, they were enjoyable. After working vigorously all week, I checked on my sticker count and gawked at the 527 stickers I had achieved. The next day, I raced into the classroom to show Mrs. Burrows my certificate which proved that I acquired 500 stickers. I leaped on the fabric chair and it was like sitting on a bed made of marshmallows. So why am I telling you all of this? What does a big marshmallow chair have to do with my life? Well... in that class period, for the first time in my life, I understood what she was teaching. We were learning how to divide fractions, and I raised my hand and told Mrs. Burrows that you just had to flip the numerator and denominator of the second fraction, then multiply both of the fractions together. She smiled at me and said, "That is the difference between ordinary and extraordinary, Maximus, all it takes is a little extra." I couldn't believe it. I will never forget the feeling of that day. I wanted to be the smartest in the room.

After that day, I spent 3 hours on First In Math almost every day. Before I knew it, I was scoring 100% on math tests consistently. Mrs. Burrows approached me and said, "Why stop at one subject?" She told me to find a "chapter book" in the library to read. I found a passion for reading Greek mythology, specifically the Percy Jackson series. I must have read The Lightning Thief over ten times and I still feel like reading it again. Instead of going home and watching TV, I would make a point to read at least a chapter per night.

After putting a little extra into every subject, I had jumped from below average to above average (check my DCAS scores for proof). The most important thing that I learned... learning is something I love. I go to school every day, not because I'm required, but because I crave knowledge. I want to know everything about anything. That probably sounds cliche, but I honestly and truly believe that 100% on a test establishes nothing if I don't understand the material. It is a matter of bettering my mind for myself and nobody else. Ordinary people stop when it's enough to pass, extraordinary people ... do a little extra.

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