LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Leah Burke

Position: Fourth Grade Teacher
School: Bassett Elementary School
School District: Westlake City Schools
City, State: Westlake, OH

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Leah Burke was nominated by her colleagues, Dana Hoffman and Deb Wadden.

Miss Burke is a positive force inside and outside of the classroom.  She is a not only a leader on her team of fourth grade teachers, but a shining example and a strong collaborator for the other 23 teachers in her school.

Miss Burke works with her students to teach them about empathy, compassion and respect towards the needs of others. For their Exhibition Project this year, her students chose to research how "collaboration in the ultimate classroom can change how kids problem solve, interact, and learn."   

"You can see the other attributes of the Learner Profile come to life in Miss Burke’s classroom. In fact, these attributes are all visible in just this one project. The students were caring, open-minded and principled communicators, risk-takers, inquirers and thinkers.  Miss Burke and her students are truly making a difference in the lives of other students in their school and in their district," her nominators said.

During their Exhibition Project, Miss Burke introduced her students to the W.R.I.T.E Grant (We Reward Innovative Teaching Endeavors) opportunity through a local vendor.  She guided her students in submitting an essay.  Her students were the Grand Prize winners and were granted six ball chairs for their classroom!

Three other students presented their ideas about what the ultimate classroom might look like to the Board of Education and the public. Some met with the superintendent and architects to discuss their learning spaces in the soon to be constructed elementary building. Students collaborated to plan, create and rehearse a TEDx-style presentation, and each student developed an action project related to their research.

Ms. Burke kept parents, colleagues and her professional learning network (PLN) informed through her "Forces are Stirring in Fourth Grade" blog posts.

When the district upgraded its database, she took it upon herself to become an expert so she could train her colleagues. On her own time, Miss Burke offered short “PUB PD” sessions where she invited her colleagues to learn more about Google Classroom.  

Miss Burke helped her principal and counselor build a schedule and calendar to help her colleagues coordinate and share Chromebooks throughout the school year. She is an active and involved member of her building's leadership team, and is deeply involved in shaping her school's atmosphere.

Miss Burke is a member of the district Technology Committee, which meets monthly to discuss district practices and equipment, and set goals to meet the future needs of students and staff. She organizes and presents her suggestions at the Google Parent Night promoted by the Technology Department each year.  

Additionally, she is a Google Certified teacher who presented at the Google Apps for Education (GAFE) Summit in Avon Lake. She strives to advance her knowledge, skills and PLN, and is a regular participant at educational technology summits and workshops. She networks through EdTechTeam chats and engages other professional connections around the world through social media. Her work is being recognized beyond the classroom, and she was recently invited to be a guest blogger for the #EdTechTeam.

Miss Burke successfully brings her new knowledge back to the students in her classroom. As a lifelong learner, she partners with her students and encourages them to take ownership of their own learning and education.

Miss Burke piloted a Bring Your Own Device initiative in her class in the 2016-17 school year with great success. She utilized Google Classroom and a Weebly site to keep everyone connected and learning.  Students caught on quickly, and technology soon became an integral part of the classroom dynamic. They knew technology should be used purposefully and ethically, and they held each other to that standard.  

Miss Burke encourages an atmosphere in which students are principled.  Her students set a high standard for climate and culture in the classroom and beyond. They become aware of the consequences of their actions and brainstorm ways to improve conditions for themselves and their classmates. She gives them the opportunity to examine authentic issues and become creative problem solvers. Students tackle challenging tasks and problems with confidence and enthusiasm because of her guidance, encouragement and belief in their potential.

Miss Burke is a teacher who truly puts her students first. She blazes new paths with administration to make changes that are favorable to student learning opportunities, and she makes personal improvements to adapt her own approach to teaching. She absolutely goes above and beyond!

Comments (37)

Tina McLoughlin Posted over a year ago

Creative, innovative, supports others well beyond just her classroom, a true leader are all characteristics that describe Miss Burke Our school, our district staff and our community is fortunate to have Miss Burke. She touches a lot of lives through her love of teaching and her desire to explore new ideas and then being willing to share this passion for learning with others.

Ben Hodge Posted over a year ago

Leah is a true professional. She has a great understanding about student growth and that every child needs something different to grow to their potential. I have been fortunate enough to work with serval educators in four different school districts. Leah in the top one percent that get the most out of their students. She accomplishes that through student ENGAGEMENT and EMPOWERMENT of their own learning by countless hours of innovative planning. Leah has shared many of her best practices with her colleagues by leading many professional development sessions for the building and the district. I wish my own two children had the opportunity to be led by her enthusiasm and engaging environment.

Mary Macias Posted over a year ago

Lea Burke is an exceptional teacher. She is innovative and knows how to encourage the kids to reach their highest potential. Her use of technology is excellent. Miss. Burke has the knowledge needed to effectively and safely teach her students how to use technology in their learning experience. It's amazing how she integrates many pieces of education together in a fun and exciting way for the kids. I'm thankful my child is a student in her class!

Alexander Fleming Posted over a year ago

I had the privilege of serving as Miss Burke's principal in 2014-2015. She is a hard working, caring, and innovative educator. Her efforts go well above and beyond normal expectations and she strives to help every child succeed. Miss Burke's contribution to student learning does not stop within her classroom walls, as she shares her expertise with other educators within the district and throughout Ohio in a variety of ways! Miss Burke's enthusiasm for innovation is a beacon of hope that will help usher in the next generation of teaching strategies and best practices to our profession. I have watched her impact lives and am proud of all that she has accomplished.

Chelsea Diso Posted over a year ago

Leah is a go getter! She is always going above and beyond her classroom duties. She not only strives to make her classroom an awesome place for kids, but she strives to make Bassett an awesome place for kids, as well. She expects a lot from her students and the staff she works with. She is a leader and does great things for our school.

Vanessa Wilhelm Posted over a year ago

We feel incredibly grateful our son has Miss Burke as a teacher. Her passion to help all students excel and advance their education, as well as, create an open minded and forward thinking classroom is very apparent! She is a huge asset to all who know her! :)

Gwen Sanchez Posted over a year ago

We are so proud of you! It is an honor to have you as a teacher. Thank you for all you do.

Rebecca Kowalski Posted over a year ago

Miss. Burke values each child in her classroom and works to find ways to motivate each individual child. She helps each child make growth in academic and social areas so that all children are and feel successful. Miss. Burke creates an environment that encourages collaboration and thinking and children use these skills in their daily work and projects. Each child is treated as an individual and grows and develops in her classroom.

The Kortes Family Posted over a year ago

From 12 year old former student Evan: "Ms. Burke was always a fun teacher, she did a lot of hands on and group activities, and she always explained things really well." From 9 year old current student Cathryn: "She always pushes us to do our best, and she makes sure we know everything we can." As parents, we appreciate how Ms. Burke challenges her students to think in different ways, to take responsibility for their own learning, and just as importantly the frequent and clear ways in which she communicates feedback so that students continually know on what they need to work and improve. She is clearly an innovative, caring, and dedicated educator. Andy and Trudy Kortes

Marie Robbins Posted over a year ago

Miss Burke’s passion for teaching is readily apparent. She helped organize the Parent Technology Night which was very informative and helpful. While at this event she shared more about her Ultimate Classroom Project and student grant proposal process, both of which were definitely a life changing endeavor for both her and her students. I saw first-hand how deeply she cares about her students and it is evident that she truly goes the extra mile to help them be successful and engaged. Miss Burke is truly an asset to the Bassett Elementary School community and we are so lucky to have her!

Jenny Clark Posted over a year ago

Leah Burke is a fabulous teacher who I get to work with this year. She has students of varying abilities and is able to teach all of them the skills they need in a way that has a positive impact, not only on their work/performance in her class, but in a way that will follow them through their schooling and lives. And she assists the staff with the ever changing technology needs. Thank you Leah for all you do for our Bassett family.

Diane Jordanger Posted over a year ago

Miss Burke is exceptional educator! Challenging students to be open to trying new paths to learn and excel. Miss Burke is constantly bringing new ideas into the classroom which keeps every student interested in learning. Westlake, as a whole, is extremely fortunate to have the exceptional talent Miss Burke brings to the classroom and our students.

Deb Schrembeck Posted over a year ago

Go Leah!

Sandee Erdman Posted over a year ago

I had the wonderful opportunity to work with Leah and her students last year. Although she creates a climate of high expectations, she helps all students learn to their ability. Last year was amazing to see because the students showed great excitement and then did research on "creating the perfect classroom"! Leah helped all of her students learn a great deal about individual differences, learning styles and academic needs. Leah also promotes the use of technology in her classroom. She encourages her students to use it and discover new programs that will enrich their learning. Leah also helps colleagues throughout the building with technology needs as well as the district so that we can continue to move forward and improve with our technology. She is a very strong leader when in comes to technology and programming. Leah looks for opportunities to network with outside resources as well. She had many speakers come into her classroom last year as well as help her students learn about grant writing so she could get needed equipment for the classroom. She is innovative, a very hard worker as well as empathetic! A great educator who has balance determination!

Corey Mancino Posted over a year ago

Both of my children has Miss Burke and still talk about what an amazing teacher she was. They were beyond prepared for the next year in both ways, academically and emotionally. My daughter was part of the grant writing spoke about in her story. She recently emailed Miss Burke thanking her for preparing her for 5th grade. She is thriving in all of her classes this year and contributes this to Miss Burke as her 4th grade teacher. Miss Burke is without question a positive life changer! She deserves this award!!

Tracy Scully Posted over a year ago

Leah is an amazing teacher to students and staff! She is innovative, inspirational, compassionate and a leader in her field. Leah's exceptional skills in teaching and technology are an asset to the Westlake City Schools. She makes a difference in the lives of those around her and her positive influence will continue to inspire others.

Andrea Deasy Posted over a year ago

Miss Burke, has shown a commitment to building a nuturing environment in her classroom by considering the needs of every student and trying to meet those needs to the fullest. She demonstrated this with my student by helping her access a special reading program that has helped my child access a vast amount of information suited for her reading needs. Thank you Miss Burke for going the extra mile! It has made a huge difference in our lives!

Jim Sanfilippo Posted over a year ago

Leah has such high expectations for all of her students. She is dedicated to her students, the staff and our Westlake parents. She incorporates technology seamlessly into her instruction and is always offering support to staff, students and their parents in the area of technology. She brings enthusiasm and excitement to the kids each day.

Dana Hoffman Posted over a year ago

I know exactly how excited Leah's students feel when she helps them learn and grow. When I was the building secretary, she frequently reached out and helped me tackle technology issues. It was not part of her job. She was being kind and she is truly a team player. Because of her help, I was better able to assist staff, students, families and our PTA more effectively and efficiently. Leah's attitude and actions promote a positive culture everywhere she is involved in the district, in the community and especially in her classroom. She really is someone who inspires you to be your best!

Pam DeAnna Posted over a year ago

Leah Burke is an inspiration to her students and also to her colleagues! She is a true leader in her 4th grade classroom, her elementary building, and in the district of Westlake City Schools. Her knowledge of technology, her open-mindedness, and her high expectations make her top notch. Leah is more than willing to share her expertise with everyone! Leah Burke is a huge asset to our entire school district and is truly deserving of this award!

Pete Zagray Posted over a year ago

M.s Burke is an exceptional teacher. Her use of BYOD to shift the pedagogy in her classroom was remarkable to watch. In her room technology is not an expensive add on - it a full partner in learning. This use of technology has amplified the the role students have in her classroom - they are truly the center of instruction! Leah - your example has an impact beyond the 4 walls of your classroom.

Patrick Furlong Posted over a year ago

Leah provides tier support in her building for technical issues and often collaborates with the tech dept to resolve technical problems in the classroom. Colleagues within the same building and throughout the district reach out to her with questions and advise . Ms. Burke keeps an open-door policy, assisting other educators with technical inquiries while maintaining classroom agenda. Thanks Leah!

Eric Tedder Posted over a year ago

Miss Burke is a pleasure to work with. She is always providing the students with the latest technological instruction available and works hard at supporting technology in her classroom.

Mary Macias Posted over a year ago

We are so excited to see that Ms. Burke's hard work is being recognized! Ms. Burke is very dedicated to her students. She isn't afraid to tackle new projects and ideas. She works hard to reach students in different and creative ways- and challenging them to do their best. I'm very happy my daughter has her as a teacher. We feel fortunate to have someone that cares so much and is willing to go above and beyond!

Jen Medved Posted over a year ago

As a coworker, I can attest that Leah challenges peers, encourages innovation, and has raised the bar at our school. We are so lucky to have Leah at Bassett and her leadership does not go unnoticed. Thanks for all you do Leah!

Melissa Neubeck Posted over a year ago

Miss Burke taught my son, Isaac in fourth grade, he's now in 9th grade. I still remember what a great year he had with her. She was very patient and kind, a perfect fit for us. What a well deserved award for her.

Jay Hamila Posted over a year ago

Congratulations Ms. Burke! I remember when you introduced us to Google Apps, Rube Goldberg, and Google classroom and the light bulb unit. You made them interesting because you took the time to explain it to us. Thanks for being such a great teacher. The last Jedi comes out soon so I hope to see you there.

Mrs. Aboumerhi Posted over a year ago

Very well deserved, Miss Burke. Your dedication and efforts will definitely contribute to our kids success.

Mary Peterson Posted over a year ago

I have known Ms. Burke since she has started her teaching career. It is not a surprise to me that she is a champion of her students. She leads by her example. Her enthusiasm and energy for learning is contagious and she passes that along to her students. Thank you for making our world better place!

Amy Spieth Posted over a year ago

Leah has been a great help getting Bassett’s teachers comfortable with the current and incoming technology. She has even offered her own time when we need more instruction. As a parent of one of her students, I am so pleased Ms.Burke is getting recognition for her excellent teaching. My daughter went to DIS with strong skills including technology, and continues to find world connections she learned in Leah’s room.

Mary Peterson Posted over a year ago

I have known Ms. Burke since she has started her teaching career. It is not a surprise to me that she is a champion of her students. She leads by her example. Her enthusiasm and energy for learning is contagious and she passes that along to her students. Thank you for making our world better place!

Liz Pirnat Posted over a year ago

I had the pleasure of volunteering in Miss Burke's classroom last year during the students exhibition project. Seeing how engaged the students were in the entire process was amazing! She as a fantastic asset to Westlake School District!

Jenn Richards Posted over a year ago

Congratulations Miss Burke! Thank you for spreading your knowledge with us all!

Tom Maxwell Posted over a year ago

She is a rock star!!

Kathi Maxwell Posted over a year ago

Leah Burke is one of the most talented teachers I have ever worked with.

Cara Santora Posted over a year ago

As a colleague of Leah's, I believe she not only changes the lives of her students, but also the Westlake community. She is a very compassionate person, who will go out of her way to help ANYONE in need. She IS an amazing individual who absolutely deserves this nomination/award as a LIFE CHANGER!

Tim Barrett Posted over a year ago

Congratulations Leah! Well deserved! Thanks for all you do for students.