A Heart of Gold

Linda Burghart.—2019 Champions for Children Award Winner.
Nominated by Angie Cossolotto through Kiwanis Club of Eureka.
Linda Burghart receiving the 2019 Champions for Children Award from Eureka City Councilwoman, Heidi Messner.

Since I retired from teaching more than three years ago, one of the most enjoyable things I’ve found is the opportunity to try new things.  One of those new pursuits is writing, but lately, I haven’t felt compelled to write much of anything.  I know from talking to other bloggers and writers that many others have experienced this same phenomenon.  Here we’ve got all this time to write (a pandemic will do that to you), and yet the words or desire don’t come.

I do some of my best thinking either during or right after exercise.  Since I haven’t been able to get to the gym, I’m only leaving the house once a day to get in a long walk.  It isn’t nearly the intense workout that I like, but it will have to suffice for now.  In the middle of my walk today, an idea suddenly struck.  I was thinking about leadership and how leaders come in different forms.  Leadership is not easy to define, and yet we recognize it when we see it.

Some leaders are quite vocal and possess a unique oratory ability to touch us through their words.  In addition, some leaders inspire us through their actions.  Such is the case with my friend and former colleague, Linda.  She does not crave attention; it’s more accurate to describe her as a person who prefers to remain anonymous. The first time I nominated her for the Excellence in Teaching Award, she didn’t fill out the paperwork, mostly because she is one of those people who doesn’t like talking about herself. I have a feeling that she probably will view my attempt to recognize her here with mixed emotions.  She will feel proud to know that she has inspired many, but she will be shy about any form of recognition. Sorry, my friend—I’m the one with the keyboard.  The good news is you won’t have to give a speech.

Linda and I go way back—at one point, we lived on the same street.  We both love kids (she is the best grandma) and big dogs. I like to tease her and say that in my next life, I’m planning on coming back as one of her dogs.  Never have you seen such loved and cared for dogs!  I was hired the year before her.  In my second year (Linda’s first), we were fourth-grade teachers.  I shifted grades a lot during my career, but there was a large chunk of time when we taught sixth grade together.  Linda often taught the straight sixth grade, and I was usually a combination fifth/sixth-grade teacher.  We made a good team, even though our strengths were varied.  She was/is one of the most organized people I’ve ever met, and my classroom was a colossal mess.

During our sixth-grade teaching years, we took several classes to Patrick’s Point for an end of the year, three day-two-night campout.  Those are good memories.  How fun it was to watch the kids trying to problem solve and figure out how to put up a tent!  Linda was the far better organizer and planned the entire stay.  With sixth graders, Linda and I knew that the best strategy was to keep them active and tire them out so that they would sleep rather than consider some late-night shenanigans. (Sixth grade was a special place that I refer to as “The Hormone Zone.”)  We took several long hikes during the day, much to the protest of the students.  When we were back in camp, we often gave the kids a choice between some quiet time (reading, crafts, etc.) or a more active alternative, such as playing whiffle ball with me.  The kids were also assigned cooking assignments in small groups and cleanup chores during our short stay.  Linda organized it all.

One of my fondest memories of Linda during those campouts was her demeanor.  She dressed the part, wearing military fatigues, with an assertive take-charge attitude.  Those sixth-graders didn’t stand a chance, as she was not about to take any guff from them.  When you’re away from school, there aren’t a whole lot of disciplinary actions one can take.  If a student presented either one of us with a discipline problem, we first talked and allowed them to correct the behavior.  If they didn’t shape up, they often were sent to their tent for a timeout.  Some isolation time when everyone else was having fun was a useful tool.

Linda’s students always respected and liked her.  She was one of those teachers who they never wanted to disappoint.  Another admirable quality about Linda is she would do anything for her students.  One of the things I respected most about her was that she always looked out for the less fortunate kids.  Around Christmas, she organized a gift exchange for her class.  If a student couldn’t participate for financial reasons, she would secretly get a gift for the child, so he/she wouldn’t be left out.

After several years teaching at that level, both Linda and I were ready for a change and began asking for a move to the primary grades.  We both had to wait for positions to open up, and my turn came sooner than Linda’s.  While I moved to primary grades after waiting a few years for an opportunity, Linda remained in sixth grade.  Her reward for being such a fabulous sixth-grade teacher was that the administration kept her there. 

Around this time, Eureka City Schools underwent a significant change and opened up Winship Junior High for the first time to sixth-graders.  Many of our families faced a difficult choice.  Should they keep their children at a smaller school or transfer their kids to a larger one that offered more opportunities in sports and other extracurricular opportunities?  The split was fairly even, but quite a few kids moved over to Winship between their fifth and sixth-grade years.  My wife and I were faced with the same decision, as our son was entering sixth grade.  Many of his closest friends were moving on, and he wanted to switch schools.  Even though we knew he would do well in either situation, we wanted him to have Linda for his sixth-grade year.  Parenting is not easy sometimes, but that was one decision we got right.  Because of Linda, our son had a fabulous sixth-grade year.

After a few years, Linda’s transfer to the primary grades came through, and we became teaching partners again in third grade.  She is a person of many talents, and one of those skills is arts and crafts.  Since that was something I never had much aptitude for, she bailed me out numerous times when it came to class projects around Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.  She enjoys crafts so much that she holds craft parties at her house.  There’s no risk of me ever crashing one of those parties.

Another one of her strengths was her ability to bring leadership qualities out of her students.  She was the Student Council advisor for many years, and frequently took on projects to improve the school and the community.  One enjoyable Student Council sponsored event was our annual 50’s ice cream social.  It seemed like she dressed up half of the kids in the school.  Somehow, she found the time to make poodle skirts for the girls and helped turn the boys into slick hipsters.

Another one of our regular fun activities at the end of most school years was the Talent Show.  (I use the term “talent” quite loosely here.)  If you know Linda’s quiet personality, it may seem odd that she has this other more outgoing side.  The Talent Show was primarily for the children, but if we were going to have one, Linda encouraged the teachers to get into the spirit of things, too.  She had us learning dance steps and routines that were fun, not only for us but also for the students.  I remember one year, early in our careers, when she and I were the Blues Brothers, decked out in suits, ties, and sunglasses, doing cartwheels on stage.  I remember thinking, “Who is this woman?  I thought she was shy.”  It wasn’t long before she had more than half of the staff learning dances to all genres of music.  Sometimes she brought her daughter, Erin, a high school cheerleading coach, to help teach us a dance routine.  Talk about a challenge!  Erin wasn’t exactly working with candidates for America’s Got Talent.

In retirement, Linda continues to be a fantastic supporter of children and teachers.  When it comes time for the Science Fair or History Day, she guides and helps children, who might not get a lot of support from home.  She still comes up with ideas for craft projects for whole classes, and often refuses money when you try to pay for the materials.

As if that wasn’t enough, one of her latest projects has been to create face masks for others.  She takes the initiative to do things like this without anyone asking.  You may think I’m exaggerating, but I assure you I am not.  The masks below are some of her latest creations.

Face masks made by Linda
More face masks made by Linda

Linda may not be a boisterous person, but everything about her demonstrates leadership.  I am proud to call her a friend.         

48 thoughts on “A Heart of Gold

  1. Nice job, Pete and so true!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor April 8, 2020 — 7:33 pm

      She’s always got something going on behind the scenes. I hope you’re keeping your sanity through all this, Barbara. Have you been painting?

      Like

  2. Lovely to see you recognising a friend and ex-colleague here, Pete. I have a lot of regard for teachers. I like doing artsy and craftsy stuff with children too but the formal learning is more difficult. I am glad our home schooling is finished for a few weeks now and I can rest and recharge. I like to teach if the kids/audience is attentive and interested. I find that younger kids are much easier to teach than pre-teen and teenage kids. I stopped teaching Sunday school after a year of teaching that age group. I found a lot of the kids positively rude and belligerent and I don’t have patience or interest in coping with that. My own teaching experiences have made me hugely respectful of teachers and what they do.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor April 8, 2020 — 10:19 pm

      I’m amazed by some of the characters in your Sir Chocolate series. You must have a lot of patience when it comes to creating them. It’s great that you have found something that you and your boys can share in, and you have appealed to each one’s particular interests with cooking and technology. I never worked with children older than twelve, so my experiences with teens are limited. I always enjoyed the girls more than the boys until about fifth or sixth grade.

      So the kids are on a break now in South Africa? Is this one of their regularly scheduled breaks? Most schools in the United States have nine or ten weeks off in our summers (from the middle of June until the end of August.) One of my friends teaches in a year-round school where the kids go to school for two months and then have three weeks off.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. My children are fortunate enough to be in the private schooling system, Pete. That is why they continued their schooling more or less uninterrupted after the schools closed a month ago. They now have their normal school holidays for a month but they both have projects to do and Greg must read 1984 by George Orwell, The Diary of a YOung Girl by Anne Frank and Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton. Michael also has two books to read. OUr gov schools are badly funded and many of them don’t have the facilities to teach on-line. The students don’t have internet or computers at home so their education has stopped. The honest truth is that for many years our gov health and education departments have been plagued by terrible corruption and theft of equipment and even things like text books deliveries have fallen foul of corruption. Now we have this catastrophe and all the mismanagement of the past is coming home to us. It is very sad and unfortunate.

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      2. petespringerauthor April 9, 2020 — 12:29 am

        That’s tragic! I’m out of the loop now, so I don’t know exactly what my old school is doing. The older students (middle school) each have a Chromebook.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Linda Burghart is one of the most giving people I know! She always has been. Gifting must be her favorite pastime, as she gifted children throughout her teaching career, putting smiles on their faces and engraving wonderful memories on their childhood forever. Now, masks! Of course, she’d jump right in there and lead the way! She’s a clever altruist who will work to make others happy all her life. Bravo! Linda!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor April 9, 2020 — 12:24 am

      Spot on, Carol! Altruistic is the perfect word to describe Linda. She always looks out for others to bring them joy. Can you believe we worked with so many amazing people over the years?

      Like

  4. She sounds wonderful! ❤ I hope she’s not embarrassed by your tribute. 🙂

    Like

    1. petespringerauthor April 9, 2020 — 12:34 am

      I’m sure she is, but she needs to be recognized for all of the good she is doing behind the scenes. She’s one of these people who prefers to fly under the radar.

      I’m sorry, Chelsea, that you’re not going to take that big trip with your husband. Oh man, you guys have a cute baby!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Agreed, and thanks. 🙂 It’s all good.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. A lovely tribute, Pete. Linda sounds a remarkable woman – those kids were lucky to have you both.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor April 9, 2020 — 8:16 am

      Thanks, Clive. I worked with some remarkable people. My fellow retirees and I typically get together once a month for lunch, but that, like everything else, is on hold right now.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hopefully you’ll be able to do that again soon – my guess is that restrictions will be lifted there before here, but I wouldn’t trust either leader to run a bath, let alone a country.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. petespringerauthor April 9, 2020 — 8:45 am

        Not trust them to run a bath—that’s priceless! 🤣🤣🤣 I don’t know how much you follow American politics, but the next election is going to be Trump vs. Biden (Obama’s, vice-president). It is startling in a country with a population of 330 million people, we’ve ended up with these candidates. That fact alone doesn’t speak well to our citizens.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. It’s a phrase my late mum used to use – about lots of politicians. I follow quite closely, it’s one way of deflecting my attention from the horror of our government, knowing that somewhere is worse off than us! I think it was probably used before, but I recall a Senator saying ‘if God had meant us to have an election He’d have given us a candidate’ when Reagan took on Carter. Plus ça change…

        Liked by 1 person

  6. A beautiful tribute to your friend, Pete. Well written, uplifting, and so needed in these times. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor April 9, 2020 — 8:23 am

      Don’t you think the best role models come from the people we admire in our lives? I suppose there is nothing wrong with following some celebrity on Twitter, but none of that appeals to me. Thanks for checking in, Brad. Best wishes to you and your family.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. how lucky you are to have connected to linda over the years, and in so many ways. she is clearly an incredible person.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor April 9, 2020 — 8:30 am

      She touched many lives. One of her former students did his student teaching in Linda’s room and is now the superintendent of our school. It’s a remarkable story.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s amazing

        Like

  8. what a wonderful tribute; I remember reading in your book about those talent shows and camping trips – it’s nice to get a glimpse into one of the people behind those events. Like you, I would not be a fan of arts and crafts. But I am impressed, but not surprised given what I have just read, that Linda has translated her love of arts and crafts into making face masks. Please give her my thanks for her contributions both as a teacher, and now as a mask-maker!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor April 9, 2020 — 8:36 am

      She was the brains behind those operations. I can appreciate arts and crafts and the creativity and ingenuity it takes, but it’s just not my deal—kind of like shopping.😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. my wife is a preschool teacher and loves arts and crafts. I’d rather work on a spreadsheet!

        Liked by 1 person

  9. I was so moved by the masks that she has sewn. The kind of person she is clearly doesn’t change in retirement. Thanks goodness.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor April 9, 2020 — 1:21 pm

      True, a person’s character is defined by then. I don’t know if she has specific people in mind to give these out to, but several of our former students are now nurses.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I keep thinking about how crisis really reveals character.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. Quite an exposition on the virtues of your former fellow teacher. As much as you extolled her, your words give credit to yourself by sharing them.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor April 9, 2020 — 1:25 pm

      If Linda realizes how many people look up to and admire her, then mission accomplished. Thanks for the ARC. I’ve got a slew of things already on my Kindle, but I’ll try to get to it in due time. Happy writing, John.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. What a lovely testament to Linda, her creativity, and level of engagement. I like it that she was firm and fun. Her award sounds like it couldn’t have been given to a more deserving person. And great masks! I love the fabrics. Clearly, she’s still contributing. Thanks for the uplifting post, Pete. Keep exercising and inspiring. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor April 11, 2020 — 8:41 pm

      Firm and fun is an excellent combination for teachers. I was fortunate to work with not only talented educators but good people. I organize a monthly retirement lunch, but that, like everything else, is on hold. Be well, Diana.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Linda may not be a boisterous person, but she’s darned lucky to have you for a friend and wonderful advocate. The world is lucky to have you both in it for all your compassion and your gifts to children. Linda is certainly an earth angel with her selfless contributions to and for society for sure. Never enough masks for sure. Stay safe Pete 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor April 13, 2020 — 4:55 pm

      The lesson to me is that we can all find ways to contribute to society, even if someone isn’t particularly extroverted. Leadership comes in many ways, and actions speak louder than words. When I am out for my daily walk, I see many more people utilizing masks. I know there are people still not taking the social distancing guidelines seriously, but I think most people are demonstrating responsibility.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. And thank goodness for that!

        Liked by 1 person

  13. akw@suddenlink.net April 13, 2020 — 6:55 pm

    Great article, Pete! I am sure the two of you made a great team. Kent

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor April 13, 2020 — 7:07 pm

      I know teachers who chose to keep to themselves, but in elementary school, teamwork is essential. I know at middle school and high school, the opportunities are perhaps more limited, but I remember reading about some of your special colleagues in your book.

      Like

  14. What a wonderful tribute to Linda, and how thoughtful of you to recognise and acknowledge her talents while she is still here to know how much she is appreciated. It sounds like the two of you made a great team. How fortunate were those children who were lucky enough to be taught by either or both of you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor April 15, 2020 — 8:51 am

      We should all reach out to those people who have touched us in some fashion by their kindness. I opted to do it more publicly because I knew many others feel the same way I do. Linda deserves to know that.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. She does. I’m sure she was deeply moved by your words, and appreciative.

        Liked by 1 person

  15. Is Linda retired yet? Your tribute to her is a good article to read at her retirement party, Pete. Your collaboration with her was wonderful. It benefitted to both you and her as teachers as well as students from both classes. It was great that eventually she got third grade and you could team again. When I taught second grade, I also teamed with another teacher. It was the beginning era of computers. We used Apple computers. The Apple II E was such a big deal. Teachers went to the County Office of Education to be trained. This teacher was not keen on mastering computer, but I started using computer when the screen was black with dotted lettering. We had a strip of codes for different functions. Anyway, I volunteered to take his class to the computer lab and he taught PE to my class. Our two classes also went on field trips together. We did that for many years!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor April 18, 2020 — 7:56 pm

      She retired a few years before me, but she still regularly helps out at local schools. I keep seeing people posting on Facebook about masks that she has made for them. Unlike some, she does all of this out of the goodness of her heart and seeks no publicity. I’m sure she was a little embarrassed by all the fuss, but she deserves to know how much she is appreciated.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I know, Pete. Usually if people do thing out of passion, they don’t think of praises or rewards. I did volunteer counseling for years. Even my adult fellowship group didn’t know it for a long time until someone tried to survey what involvements the members have in the church. They asked a show of hands, I raised my hand. When other volunteer counselors in the class talked so much about what they do, I only talked to the ones who are counselors. Something superficial because the client info should be confidential. Some cases would make great novels.

        Liked by 1 person

  16. Hooray for Linda! And hats off to you, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. petespringerauthor April 26, 2020 — 2:50 pm

      She’s the best! When we get discouraged about something in education (such as putting way too much emphasis on state testing and taking the joy out of learning), our colleagues are the ones who help remind us what we do is critical work.

      Liked by 1 person

  17. Thank you for visiting my blog today. You may have noticed I retired from college teaching some time ago.

    The masks pictured here are eye-catching — and probably ear-looping too!

    You are on your way to being a published author, Pete: Obviously, you have cultivated a writing habit and have developed a considerable following on this WP platform.

    Write on! 😀

    Like

    1. petespringerauthor April 29, 2020 — 3:46 pm

      Thank you, Marian. It’s been a kick trying something new. I’m a little frustrated because my critique group can’t meet right now due to the virus, and I’m anxious to get their feedback on my work in progress.

      Are you in contact with any of your former students? I just got the most delightful letter from a mom two days ago, telling me about her five adult children. (I had the pleasure of teaching four of them.)

      By the way, I picked up your book a few months back, and it is just about to come up on my Kindle. I try to read things in the order I purchased them. I get in trouble because I buy too many books. It’s a nice problem to have. 😎

      Like

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