In June, the Seaford School District named Central Elementary School’s Laura Burke the 2019-2020 district Teacher of the Year at the end of year celebration. Burke, who was chosen through a process of interviews and classroom observations, teaches third grade at Central. The building Teachers of the Year were Lyndsey Gerstle, Blades Elementary; Burke, Central Elementary; Jacqueline Allman, Fred Douglass; Dr. Krystal Hershey, West Seaford; Kimberly Simmons, Seaford Middle; and Heather Anthony, Seaford High.
“I am humbled working with so many very talented teachers,” said Burke on hearing her name called as Teacher of the Year (TOY). “I have been doing this for 26 years and winning this award is all because of the people I work with, the administration, parents and my family. I was just honored just to be nominated. In winning I want to show the community what we are doing to not only educate their children, but to make them better people by teaching them to have ‘unconditional acceptance’ for others.”
Burke has been teaching for 26 years, 24 in the Seaford School District.
“I have been in several of the schools in the district, but Central is my home,” Burke continued. “It is where my family is each day. This is what we are teaching the students. The school from the administrators to the teachers are all a part of their family and each day they come to school is like coming home. We want to accept everyone – children and staff – for who they are not what they have accomplished. It is important for each child to understand that everyone is different and we must learn to except this in everyone. The ‘unconditional acceptance’ is not just at Central. This is done district wide. We work to be a positive family-community environment. The school is our house, and everyone is important who is in our home.”
Becky Neubert, Central’s principal, chose a book for all of the staff to read to reinforce ‘unconditional acceptance’ in the school.
“Becky chose the book ‘No Nonsense Nurturing’,” said Burke. “The book talks about building positive relationships with the children. We want the children to practice what we are teaching them. We as staff model the behaviors and want the students to repeat the positive attitudes they see each day.”
In winning the TOY award, Burke will spend time with the other TOY’s from around the state.
“It amazes me how much we as TOY’s think alike,” Burke said. “We all want the same things for our students, and it is interesting how we each come up with innovative ways to teach our students. In Central, we call it our home and we have activities to promote this thought. Each team has a color and a different team name. Each team has a different message and the students will wear the different colors on days to promote that teams’ message.”
Burke has a degree in elementary education from Wilmington University, a master’s degree in early childhood education and is pursuing her doctorate. She lives in Seaford with her family. Her mother taught in the Seaford School District for 40 years, her father taught at Delaware Tech for 33 years and her son teaches in the Indian River School District.
“If I can get the children to accept others unconditionally and they take this idea with them into next year and with family, friends and community members and keep it going, maybe we all will learn to accept each other,” Burke explained.