"It's sort of like a dumpling," Ramsey Wise explains with hand motions.
I feel a slight twinge in my empty stomach as 22-year-old Wise enlightens me with her knowledge of Chinese cuisine. This dumpling imposter, Wise tells me, is what the Chinese call bao zi, or "wrap" in English. The Chinese wrap up anything and everything in these bread-like pockets, then steam them and eat them for any one of their daily meals, she says.
A Jackson native, Wise had her first taste of bao zi this summer, on a month-long trip to China as an instructor for the Johns Hopkins University Center for Talented Youth. If it sounds like a notable accomplishment, that's probably because it is. For Wise, it's simply one of many.
Teaching 12th-grade English and AP Literature at Lanier High School, Wise defines what it means to go above and beyond. After graduating from Murrah High School, she received her English degree at Millsaps College, finishing in three years, while holding down three jobs.
Now pursuing her master's in education from Mississippi College, Wise says she fell into teaching through her love of books and literature, and realized that education was her niche.
The National Council of Teachers of English recently honored Wise with their Leadership Development award, and in November she will attend the NCTE annual conference in New York City.
I notice something about each word, sentiment and story she shares with me: Wise possesses a whole-hearted passion for education and learning—the kind of passion that can move mountains.
"If you're not doing this for the kids, then you're in the wrong profession," she says. You will not hear Wise write off teaching as just a way to earn a paycheck. She makes certain her kids know that she doesn't dismiss her role and responsibility.
"You can't force things on these kids unless you first show them you care," she says. Wise also puts in overtime outside the classroom to make sure her students get the message. "I show up for Young Life every other Wednesday," she says. "I'm at football games. I'm at basketball games. I'm there."
Wise wraps her entire life around her hopes and ambitions for her students, helping each of them to wrap their own lives in hopes and dreams for the future.
"What I've found," she says, "is when you have high expectations and open up every possibility, they'll rise to meet it."