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In Memoriam.

October 20, 2012

Sad news came down from the Fort yesterday morning. One of my most favorite high school teachers passed away on Thursday and I think the world will be a little more dull without him here.

Mike Burns was one of the most amazing teachers I have ever had- and considering I have several degrees and had a lot of instructors over the years, that is saying something. He was this big bear of a guy, tall and towering over you, giving you this no nonsense look, with tufts of white hair around his head. He was very inch the football coach that he was. I had him junior year for AP US History and again senior year for US Government, and I can’t thank him enough for helping to prepare for real life and for being such a wonderful teacher and guide.

He is the reason I know anything about James Fenimore Cooper, Natty Bumppo and Last of the Mohicans. He is the reason I have actually read ALL of All Quiet on the Western Front. The fact that I can tell you who Doris Day is and have any reference to knowing WHY that actually matters is because of him. He is the man that gave me my first application to register to vote and sent it in for me. I can tell you that Candy Cummings invented the curveball and why it matters to know what the issues are when you vote all because of him. He taught me how to actually write editorials and lay out a point of view in a less than a page. In fact, I think my first opinion piece that I ever wrote was for his class was back in 1999 and was all about Pakistan and that government getting nuclear weapons. He was the first person to really make me aware of the Civil Rights movement in America and why using your voice matters so much. I still think of him every time I see the PBS series Eyes on the Prize. I came into college with 3 or 4 classes on my transcript already because I get such good grades on both of those AP exams- so much of that because of his good teaching. It wasn’t just memorizing facts in his classes- it was understanding how everything fit together for a bigger picture, and seeing where you fit into that picture. He made learning fun and personal.

Over twelve years since I graduated from high school, and my friends and I still talk about him. He comes up several times a year in conversation. Burnsy. We called him Burnsy, it was the funniest thing when we walked into history one day and Sara accidentally called him Burnsy to his face. He gave her a stern look and she totally went a shade more pale- it was hilarious and I am still teasing her about it years later. There was a core group of us who were in that AP US History class as students, and we are all still friends. I will never forget we must have spent two solid weeks studying as a small group at my house before that exam. We memorized all of the lyrics to Billy Joel’s We Didn’t Start the Fire when studying for that test and knew all of our history from the 1600s to 1999. I remember taking a study break and taking a posed picture with half the group that was there… we have all of our books and notes piled around us on the couch. We gave him a copy of that picture and it was still on his wall of photos when we graduated a year later.

I work in education now and I often see students who come to college unprepared for the rigors of college work and for the expectations of being closer to the real world. Even when I was a college student and now as an educator, I am so thankful for the great public education I was given as a high school student. Mike Burns was a huge part of that for me and I was not only a better student for his guidance, but I am also a better citizen… every time I consider NOT voting in an election, I think of Mike Burns and the glower he would give me if he knew that… and then I research the issues, the candidates and make a decision… like Burnsy taught me. I will be mailing off my absentee ballot next week and you better believe I will be sending a little prayer of thanks up to heaven when I do it. Thanks to God for giving us all such a wonderful teacher and mentor, someone whose impact and legacy on hundreds and hundreds of students will go on long after his funeral is over. Thanks for giving us Mike Burns.

 

His obituary is here

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