Michael, the STAR Student

Senior Michael Christianson is without a doubt a brilliant, dedicated, and interesting student at Pace Academy. He has excelled in areas beyond the classroom, such as Debate, Knight Gallery, tutoring other students once or twice a week, and attending trivia competitions for fun. He is a unique student because he has a passion and drive to learn and not to just memorize the information to do well in school. Michael believes that his “success in the classroom stems from [his] genuine interest in every subject, making it easy to do the work.” All of these attributes that make Michael an ideal student were recognized when he received the STAR student award from the Professional Association of Georgia Educators Foundation.

The STAR program (the Student Teacher Achievement Recognition program) began in 1994, and continues to recognize Georgia’s future leaders and honor the professional educators who have nurtured these scholars. The STAR student award is given to one high school senior from every high school in Georgia who achieves the highest SAT score in one sitting at their school and who is also in the top ten percent of their class (as determined by GPA). In addition, each student has the privilege of recognizing one teacher from their school as the STAR teacher. Michael selected Jason Smith for this honor. The two were invited to a banquet with the governor to celebrate all STAR students and teachers. However, Mr. Smith’s car broke down that morning, preventing the two from attending the banquet.

Mr. Smith has been teaching Michael throughout Michael’s high school career. He taught him in Algebra II in ninth grade, Multivariate Calculus and Cryptography in 11th grade, and AP Stat his senior year. The two have maintained a strong relationship because they, as Michael said, “talk outside of the classroom about random questions, interesting problems, even sometimes things that have nothing to do with math. We generally talk about it and go through theorems, formulas, and interesting things that he is interested in and I’m really interested in.” Michael said he selected Mr. Smith because “I really like him as a person, and I really think he is devoted to his job and that he cares about math and teaching people math, and it makes it really enjoyable to be around him as a teacher.” Mr. Smith in return complimented Michael as a student: “I don’t think I’ve ever taught anyone who combines his interest, talent, and enthusiasm for math so well. Or, really, his general interest in just learning any and everything. When he walks in my room, I never know if we’re going to talk about math, or science, or history, or random trivia. It’s always going to be interesting, though. He’s an amazing student.” The two get along because they share interests in areas outside of math. Michael said, “Honestly, I like everything. Math and physics, science kinds of things, are more my passion, but I also like English and art history.” Their conversations include cross words, trivia, Quiz Net, High Q, and discussions on a wide range of random questions. Michael said, “We both enjoy learning things, and that is the fundamental aspect of our relationship.”

Michael is not sure where he wants to go to college at this writing. He is leaning towards Columbia University, but is still considering U Penn and Brown. After college he looks to research as a career, mainly because he thinks if he doesn’t keep learning new things then he’ll get bored with whatever he is doing. He is leaning towards a job in academia — research or writing papers about experiments or books. He worries most about having “too many interesting things to do” and not enough time.

Michael would most likely credit his parents for his wide range of interests. Michael’s childhood with his parents was based on the discussion of words, reading, or before he could read, being read to. Michael said, “I feel like most of my memories of when I was little is them explaining things to me, because I have always been curious.” His dad is a math wiz, and his mom is involved with English.

Beyond his parents’ inspiration, he enjoys reading a lot. He said that while there are many great authors and scientists he enjoys to read about, Tycho Brahe and Tesla are his favorites. He has named both of his cats after these two scientists and their dedication to their fields. Brahe was an astronomer and Tesla worked with electricity in the late 20th century. It turns out that Tesla was so dedicated to his field, he ended up electrocuting himself in an experiment. Michael said, “I guess that’s the ultimate commitment to science: getting yourself killed by learning something new. Hopefully that won’t happen to me.”

By Sallie Hays, Staff Writer ’13

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