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Agawam Public High School
Reason for Entry: When I first transferred into the Agawam Public School system as a nervous, introverted freshman, there was no one there for me at all. The first few days were the hardest days I would come by during that hectic, confusing year. As I woke up in the morning and walked to school every day, I prayed and wished and willed for any oncoming driver to lose his focus and crash into me. I would picture it in my mind, and feel completely hopeless when it didn't happen.
Then I met Ms. Burns. She wasn't my teacher then, but she would sit in the back of my Study Skills class, because she didn't have a classroom of her own. This was fifth period, when lunch took place, and while my strange, frightening peers would rush into the hallways and crowd them with screaming, intimidating bodies, I remained planted stiffly in my seat with Ms. Burns sitting in the back of the room grading papers. I was always aware of her presence despite the fact that we never exchanged words (then again, I was too shy to speak to anyone at that time).
After a few weeks of this habit, of her working hard to grade papers, and me working hard to finish mine, I felt more comfortable with her there. She spoke to me. I replied. And before I could be afraid of what was happening, a conversation had begun. This conversation revealed information about me that I was ashamed of.
I had been home schooled from first grade all the way until half way through ninth grade. I developed English skills, but I didn\'t learn anything else. I was a freshman in high school without even enough knowledge to add or subtract properly. Burns didn't shake her head, click her tongue, or nod sympathetically. She ordered me to take out my math work, and immediately took action to help me find the knowledge I was missing. She stayed after school with me multiple times a week-for several hours at a time. By the time the year was over, I had learned everything I needed to know from second grade onward. I was still a year behind, but we both knew that I had accomplished more than some people could give credit for.
Sophomore year came, and she still hadn\'t forgotten about me. Turns out, she taught the new Study Skills class I was required take that year. There were many confused students in that class, but she made time for me when she could, and always made time to stay with me after school.
Not only did she teach me everything I know in math, but she taught me what I needed to know for biology class, too! She helped me study, taught me useful tricks to remember things, and helped me with my homework. Ms. Burns was always there.
Junior year, and she was in my math class. She taught sophomore level, but I was still a year behind. She made sure I was always caught up with my work, and never let me forget the days when I let myself slack a little. She was stern and tough, but there was a gentleness to her somehow. I knew that she would never push me farther than I could handle, and only pushed me so much because she knew I had it in me to succeed, even if I didn't see it at the time.
I\'m in my senior year now, and she still catches up with me and helps me with the geometry I struggle with.
With Burns, the math I hated, the science I could never comprehend, was easy and fun. But that's not all she was good for.
Ms. Burns gave me advice I will never forget. She taught me that it was okay to be myself. She showed me that there is so much more to me than anyone will ever know, and that I could be someone great, if I actually try. She helped me through family struggles, and showed me that I wasn\'t alone.
When I finish with high school, I'll be moving on to college. After that, I\'ll be coming back to my old school as an English teacher, and if I can reach just one person the way Ms. Burns reached me, that child will have Ms. Burns to thank, for being the reason I could help them, just as I have Ms. Burns to thank for being the reason I could achieve my dreams.