Teacher honored by peers

Published 10:53 am Wednesday, April 18, 2012


COURTLAND—For someone who says she’s “just a local girl,” Connie Burgess’ impact on young people earned her this year’s Teacher of the Year Award for Southampton County Public Schools.

A pre-kindergarten teacher at Riverdale Elementary School, Burgess was chosen for the award by her peers.

“I work with a great group of pre-school teachers,” she said. “There are three at our school. We work and plan together. I really do share it (the credit) with all of them. It’s very much a team effort.”

“The school staff votes and she was the unanimous decision,” said Riverdale Principal Chris Tsitsera. “Then each school submits a packet application, and county school representatives review without knowing the names; only the assistant superintendent knows.”

Burgess was chosen as Teacher of the Year at Riverdale. She and others considered for the top honor were Melinda Lee, Teacher of the Year at Capron Elementary; Mary Winningham, Meherrin Elementary; Angela Deskins, Nottoway Elementary; Stephen Edwards, Southampton Middle; and Annetta Moore, Southampton High.

Burgess received flowers, gift certificates for instructional materials, a pen set, gift bags and a lunch served by culinary students.

“I was real honored,” she said.

She and her husband of 39 years, Joseph, are the parents of Katie Magette, who lives in northern Virginia, and April Burgess, a local veterinarian.

“I’m so proud of her,” Magette said. “She’s been an educator her whole life and has made such a difference in the children’s lives. She has a way with them and always has. I think she deserves the awards.”

“It’s rare we don’t go somewhere and students don’t recognize her,” Magette continued. “They always remember my mom. ‘There’s Mrs. Burgess. She’s my favorite teacher.’”

Burgess said they are all family.

“A lot of the children I teach now, I taught their parents,” she said. “It’s kind of rewarding. I get to share in a lot of different lives. They’ll run up to me in Food Lion and say, ‘you’re still alive!’”

Burgess remembered a boy who was in her first kindergarten class at Hunterdale and is now in the Army. He sent a picture in uniform to her.

“I really love children,” Burgess said. “It’s what makes me tick.”

The passion for teaching began more than 30 years ago, starting out at The Gingerbread House. Four years later, Burgess was at Southampton Academy. A Southampton High School graduate, she went back to school to earn a degree at Paul D. Camp Community College and another at Norfolk State University.

“I took a class here and a class there,” Burgess said. “I was working and raising children and trying to get a degree.”

Burgess has been teaching part time at PDCCC for 10 years.

“I work with teachers, childcare providers, all walks of life,” she said. “I’ve been sharing ideas and learning with them for a good while. It’s really been a lot of fun.”