2017 Teacher of the Year Winner: Ms. Melinda Burkhart!

by Jessica on May 29, 2017

Vroman’s is proud to announce the 2017 Teacher of the Year!
Mrs. Melinda Burkhart of Lincoln Elementary School!

Join us on Tuesday, May 30 at 6pm as we celebrate Mrs. Melinda Burkhart, Lincoln Elementary and all educators at our Teacher of the Year Celebration.
In addition to the award presentation, we will be serving light refreshments, and giving out a special discount to those in attendance.

Cindy Lopez nominated Mrs. Melinda Burkhart of Lincoln Elementary

I am writing to nominate my son’s First Grade teacher, Mrs. Melinda Burkhart of Lincoln Elementary School in La Crescenta, CA for Vroman’s 2017 Teacher of the Year.
Here is why we think she is a most deserving candidate.

  1. Her flexibility and Resourcefulness: Last school year she was teaching Kindergarten. We were not in her class at that time, but were well aware of her congenial personality and enthusiasm for school spirit. Just days before the school year began in August 2016, Mrs. Burkhart stepped up to fill a vacancy in First Grade. This would have been reason enough to praise her, but added to the difficulty of the situation is the classroom she was to be assigned, far from the cozy alcove of “Kinder corner”, she was to be across the large blacktop, on the opposite end of the campus, in a newly erected bungalow village, next to a major construction project that the school has been undergoing all year, that continues to be under construction throughout the school year, and that up until the very last minute, had no air conditioning/heating unit and no lights. However, she managed to set up the inside of that trailer in no time, with an impressive display of academic organization: charts, designated project areas, supplies and a host of engaging learning materials and scholastic décor. Her ability to utilize that space so efficiently, and orchestrate the daily routines of a classroom of first-graders within it, show real talent, professionalism, and a natural gift that elevates classroom management to an art form.
  2. Her School Spirit: She always wears the school colors on Spirit Day, and when there are other themed Spirit Days, she always participates enthusiastically. When I see a teacher wearing her pjs on Pajama Day, or cowboy gear on Western Day along with the students, or on any given day, dressed as her favorite character of First Grade chapter books, “Miss Junie B.”, I know I’m seeing a teacher who loves her job, loves all students, and loves her school; and that is a flag that flies for all to see, which benefits school spirit, overall. She is a credit to Lincoln Elementary and to teaching, in general, because she embodies an ideal, perhaps a nostalgic or sentimental one, of what a teacher of young children should be like. She reminds me of every good teacher of young children therefore helps put me at ease as a parent of young learners, embarking on their academic journey through what has become a slightly more frightening world.
  3. Her Teaching & Communication Style: Holiday décor and costumes aside, there is a very skilled educator at work in Mrs. Burkhart. She is competent in modern teaching vernacular, but has a way of balancing the rigors of academic goals with a very approachable and open style of communication. She is a champion of reading and had employed many strategies to encourage it, including daily reading logs, promoting online reading test that can be taken during school time or at home, laying out an assortment of appropriate book choices during their weekly library time, and posting the students “total words read” list on a bulletin board. She sets her students up for success in a number of other ways, as well. She gives out the weekly homework packets on the Friday prior to the week it is due, to give flexibility to families. She places her students into writing workshop groups three times a week, based on their reading levels, but names the groups after popular book series instead of ranking them in a more obvious or potentially shaming way. She attends training regularly and has a continually growing bag of tricks up her sleeve to accommodate different learning styles, which makes her classroom so engaging, even as a visiting parent.

My favorite thing has been communicating with her weekly on my son’s homework. She provides a space after the writing assignment for the parent to leave comments about what they have observed in their child’s writing. I have been pretty frank with her about our struggles, about where I think something he has written has come from, what I love about something he has written, what’s going on in our lives that might affect him; it’s gotten pretty personal. She always takes the time to respond in a thoughtful way. I know that she is truly paying attention to whom her students are, not just how they are performing. She is also always available via e-mail. There have been times I have sent her a message early in the morning with a question, and she usually manages to answer me before school starts. Her response is always prompt and informative.

She is quick to acknowledge exceptional behavior in her students but does not single out or demean students who do experience learning or behavior issues. I know that she looks out for their safety and well-being. I have spoken to another parent with a boy in her class who was being quietly bullied by another classmate. When the behavior was brought to the attention of the parents of the children concerned, Mrs. Burkhart stood her ground in defense of the boy and ultimately the issue was resolved. His mother spoke to me with such a profound gratitude for what this teacher has done for her son’s hope for the future, his self-esteem and engagement at school. She knows that a real bullet has been dodged, a life has been changed, a life that could have been just passed up the river, grade to grade, getting worse and slipping through the cracks in an overworked system. THAT is the power of a good teacher. I have the utmost respect and confidence in Mrs. Melinda Burkhart as a deserving recipient of this award.

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