By Brian Conlin, firstname.lastname@example.org
3:25 PM EST, January 11, 2012
Twenty kindergarten students at Riverview Elementary School followed the lead of their purple-clad teacher, Kelly Nyman, and sported Baltimore Ravens jerseys, sweat shirts, headbands and other accessories in school Wednesday.
Their classroom was one of many filled with the Ravens spirit as students walk around in homemade Ravens hats and the front office of the school on Kessler Road is covered in Ravens decorations.
As the Ravens prepare for their first home playoff game in five years on Sunday, the contest is also providing the opportunity to teach students about the power of hard work.
"It really fits into our theme of determining to be remarkable. Some of the back stories (of the Ravens players) truly are remarkable," said principal Mary Maddox, sporting the jersey of Baltimore All-Pro defensive lineman Haloti Ngata.
Maddox pointed to the Ravens rookie wide receiver Torrey Smith, as an example for students to see the results from hard work.
Growing up in Colonial Beach, Va., the former University of Maryland standout cooked dinners and changed the diapers of his younger siblings while his mother worked multiple jobs.
"We use that work ethic to talk every day during announcements about being in school every day on time," Maddox added. "We say (Ravens Coach John) Harbaugh would not tolerate his players being late for practice or not showing up for practice."
Maddox said that lesson has sunk in with her students and attendance at the Title I school has risen this year.
So has the support for Baltimore's favorite sports team at the school.
Nearly all the students, Maddox said, have written letters to the team to be delivered to a "Baltimore Ravens Postal Service Mailbox" at a Giant supermarket.
Through a contest between the Ravens and the supermarket chain, the letters give each student an opportunity to win four tickets to the Ravens playoff game against the Houston Texans on Sunday.
From the entries, the Ravens will select one school to send their mascot, Poe, and the cheerleaders for a visit in 2012.
While going to the game would be a thrill, just taking part in the post-season spirit is enough for some of the students.
Mackenzie Miller and Andrew Jones, two of the students in Nyman's class, wore Ravens gear and said they enjoyed being at a school where everyone is rooting for the Ravens.
When asked why she liked it, Mackenzie said, "Because since my whole family likes the Ravens, it's a little bit special for me."
Andrew, a fan of quarterback Joe Flacco, had a simpler reason for liking going to school where everyone roots for the home team.
"I love purple," he said.
Though his favorite Raven is All-Pro middle linebacker Ray Lewis, Jaidyn Loney, a third-grade student, walked around the cafeteria on Wednesday wearing a paper Fu Manchu to match what Flacco has grown for the past few weeks.
"I really hope they make it to the Super Bowl," Jaidyn said, noting that he likes how the school has come together to support the Ravens.