On the day the award was announced, Shelby took Miss Burns some balloons to celebrate. Here is Shelby with her balloons for Miss Burns.
Blenman teacher a Rodel pick
She creates magical moments for kids
When Jennifer Burns first started teaching, never did she think she would be performing magic tricks.
But every day with the help of Baluga the Bunny, that's what the 29-year-old does with her kindergartners at Blenman Elementary School, 1695 N. Country Club Road.
She takes out her magic hat and a magic wand. Her students point their magic fingers and all together, they say "abracadabra kazam!"
Then Baluga — the plush bunny — shares the magic word of the day, which is incorporated in the vocabulary lesson and the concept the class is working on.
"I hope that when my kids come to school that it's magic for them, that it's a really special moment," Burns said.
That is important to Burns, who says her positive experience in school motivated her to become a lifelong learner and a teacher.
"I had some really awesome teachers when I was growing up and they always made learning a lot of fun," she said. "It was always a caring environment and that's what I look to provide."
Burns is one of three local teachers selected for the 2009 Rodel Charitable Foundation of Arizona Exemplary Teacher Initiative from hundreds of educators in schools with large populations of low-income students.
Winning teachers receive $10,000 in savings bonds and will mentor promising University of Arizona student teachers.
Burns is familiar with the Rodel program, having been mentored by an exemplary teacher from Blenman when she was an undergraduate student at the UA.
She is the first Rodel student-teacher in Tucson to go on to become an exemplary teacher.
Upon graduating from the UA, Burns worked the spring semester at Vesey Elementary School.
The next school year she landed a job at Blenman where she works alongside her mentor. This is her fourth school-year at Blenman.
Burns said while she does endure a fair amount of stress as a teacher, the kids can always brighten her day.
"They are so sweet and so genuine," she said. "They come in with their beautiful smiles and it makes it easy to start a new day and a new opportunity."
That positive attitude is what prompted Blenman Principal Cathi DeSalvo to nominate Burns for the Exemplary Teacher Initiative.
"She lays such a solid foundation in the first year of learning for our students," DeSalvo said.
"Her students are always engaged and happy and she really promotes critical thinking. You couldn't ask for a better way to start your educational experience than to start in her classroom."