Jeanna Burns has spent 40 years teaching Kindergarten at Fultondale Elementary. It is incredible to consider the thousands of kids she impacted in 40 years. When you also consider that her students are experiencing school for the first time at 5 years old, then the weight of her impact is even more important and profound.
Jeanna likes to tell her students that they will always be like family to her, like her own children.
“Once you are one of mine, you are always one of mine”.
Thank you, Mrs. Burns, for devoting 40 years of your life to teaching and nurturing your students.
Treye Hanner: Tell us a little about you and how you decided to become a teacher?
Jeanna Burns: I have been married to my husband Ronnie for 26 years. We have 3 children and 7 grandchildren. We have lived in Tarrant, Hayden and now live in Gardendale where we have been for the last 20 years.
I got my undergraduate degree from UAB in Early Childhood Education. I later got my master’s from Samford University. I started my teaching career as a Kindergarten teacher at Fultondale Elementary where I have been for the past 40 years.
I always knew I wanted to be a teacher. My biggest influence was my mother who was a teacher, and I was around the school a lot. She was a history teacher but, when my brother and I were little, she taught music and was always involved in school theater. My love for elementary school started when I was a teenager. I worked in the church nursery on Wednesday and Sunday, and I loved working with the younger children. I also took several children from my church during the summer months to movies, the zoo, and the park whenever I had a chance.
Treye Hanner: What is your favorite part of being a teacher?
Jeanna Burns: My favorite part of being a teacher is watching the children when they finally understand a concept, the excitement they show melts your heart. I also love when my former students either come by for a visit or send me messages. One thing I have always told my students “Once you are one of mine, you are always one of mine”.
Treye Hanner: Are there special moments where you say to yourself “this is why I teach?”
Jeanna Burns: Yes, every time I have a student that comes up and gives me a hug and tells me they love me, or they missed me, or they miss being in my class and wish they could come back to kindergarten. This happened last Friday when I had to be out part of the day for an appointment. I barely made it in my classroom door when I was surrounded by twenty-one 5 years old’s all trying to give me a hug at the same time and saying they missed me.
Having children feel successful academically is important, but having them be successful as a person, as a part of our classroom family, to be respectful and be respected is the most important thing I try to instill in my students. When I see that being accomplished in my students, I know they will have successful lives.
Treye Hanner: What challenges have you experienced while having to teach through the pandemic?
Jeanna Burns: I will say that teaching through the pandemic has been the most challenging thing I have had to do in all my teaching experience. It’s hard enough trying to keep Kindergarten students engaged when you have them right in front of you, but trying to do it on a computer or even in the classroom while trying to keep a safe distance is almost impossible. However, you keep trying different things until you find the one that works better for the group you have.
Treye Hanner: What’s the one thing you would like people to know about teachers?
Jeanna Burns: The one thing that I want everyone to understand about teachers is that we love our students like they are our own children. We worry about them when they are away from us. We pray for them. We want what is best for each one of them and will do what we must do to try and make sure they are as successful as they can be. When our students leave at the end of the day, we do not stop thinking about them or planning for them. And at the end of the school year we don’t stop, we worry about them until we see them again in August.