At Jefferson High School, in the San Antonio Independent School District, English Advanced Placement students start each day with a handshake and greeting from their teacher, James Hammond. Then the class begins with a rapid pace that doesn't let up. This class reflects their teacher's enthusiasm.
"Mr. Hammond is very energetic and I see the world differently because of him.," said Patrick Martinez, a senior.
Hammond expects excellence from each of his students.
"'Be great.' He says that to everyone everyday," said Megan Kee, a senior.
But Hammond didn't always believe he could achieve that himself.
"If it wasn't for just one teacher in my high school, I might not have gone to college." Hammond said.
He grew up with a speech impediment and stuttered. Hammond said he was afraid to speak.
"I had a teacher who really broke me of that fear and it changed my life. I thought if there's anything I want to do in life, it's make the kind of difference she made in mine," Hammond said.
In just two years, he is already making that kind of difference. His students passed the AP Exam with the highest percentages in the San Antonio ISD.
"He actually pushes you. I've never been a good writer but now I actually want to try to write," said Ashley De la Garza, a senior.
"Students rise to the expectations you set for them. I set really high goals and they meet them. I believe in leadership and respect," Hammond said.
"He's taught me to be a better writer, he's just awesome." said Caitlyn Ware, a senior.
Fellow senior Ryan Valdez said, "He doesn't accept failure."
"We have a team based culture in the classroom. I also want the students to feel like they really belong here, that we are a family," Hammond said.
"He makes me strive to be the best I can be in life," said Jairo Gamboa, a senior.
Now this young teacher is sharing his strategies with all teachers in the district.
"My goal is that every student is going to get into college and pass the AP test. Not only get into college, but have them thrive in college. My goal is for them to become tomorrow's leaders," Hammond said.