Burke is Oak Grove Teacher of the Year

Monday, April 22, 2013

By DONNA FARLEY

Staff Writer

More than once, Oak Grove Elementary teacher Joy Dunlap Burke has used her own lunchtime to leave campus and purchase food for a student with food sensitivities who had forgotten his meal.

Burke often arrives early and leaves late, joking with colleagues she would sleep at school if she could.

Her lessons to fourth grade students not only target the basics, but also build confidence, compassion, community involvement and social skills, according to parents.

For these reasons and many more, Burke was named Teacher of the Year for her campus.

A selection committee at Poplar Bluff R-I looks each spring at the building, grade span and district level for instructors who have earned respect and admiration from students, parents and colleagues by inspiring youth to reach their highest potential.

Nominees are chosen who exhibit service in the community, leadership in the academic setting and enthusiasm for the education profession.

"(Joy) has an obvious love for students and treats them with the utmost respect at all times," fourth grade teacher Aleanna Moore wrote the selection committee, explaining that in Moore's two years at the campus, Burke has become her 'go-to' person for help.

When her students are having difficulty, Burke will go to their former teachers to try to solve the problem, according to third grade teacher Deborah Thompson. Thompson describes Burke as someone willing to go the extra mile to help a child.

Parents have seen the same dedication.

"Mrs. Burke holds high expectations for her students and encourages accountability for their decisions and their actions," said mother Amanda Casey, who is also a teacher at the 5th & 6th Grade Center. "She works very hard to establish good classroom behavior and effective study habits in her students that help them excel even after they leave her classroom."

Mother Heather Davis often hears her son, Trenton, say Burke makes boring things fun to learn.

Sending a child to school happy and excited to learn is a great feeling, Davis said in a letter to the selection committee.

"When this feeling is combined with a feeling of calmness, knowing that their teacher is as concerned with your child's wellbeing as you, and knowing they will go out of their way to contact you and keep in communication affords an amazing peace of mind," she wrote.

Burke, a resident of Corning, Ark., has been at Oak Grove since 2001, and with R-I since 1989. She spent a year prior to that with Neelyville School District.

Student William Woods told the committee Burke is the reason he knows what he wants to do when he grows up.

"(She) is really nice and a really smart teacher and if we are having trouble, she will guide us through anything," Woods wrote.

Not only does Burke reward students for being good, said Trenton Davis, she makes it easy to learn by saying silly stuff that sticks in their minds.

"She is my favorite teacher I have ever had," said student Isabella Sifford.

Burke is married to Benjamin Burke and has three step-children and one step-grandchild. She attends Bluff City Apostolic Worship Center.

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