Ordinary person, humbled by award
"I'm just an ordinary person, I think, who has won this extraordinary award," said Bobbye R. Burke of Memorial.
Burke, 77, received a Lewis Hine Award for Service to Children and Youth given by the National Child Labor Committee in New York City on Jan. 30. She had been nominated for her work with autistic and disadvantaged children.
For 11 years, Burke has volunteered twice weekly to instruct students at ABC West, a special education alternative school operated by the Harris County Department of Education. She explained that the school serves students who are educationally disadvantaged by autism, Down syndrome and bi-polar disorder. All students, she said, have behavioral problems.
The facility accepts students from other schools throughout Houston who need additional assistance with the goal of reintegrating them back into their original student population. Ultimately, however, some will stay and graduate from ABC West.
Burke said she wanted to commend all of the staff for being dedicated professionals, adding that it has been rewarding to work and interact with them.
Of her award, Burke said that she had been surprised when she heard she had received it because she was unaware that she had been nominated.
In addition to the school, the former teacher has volunteered at the MD Anderson Cancer Center since her husband passed away from leukemia in 1995. Originally from Livingston, she moved to the Memorial area in 1957.
Before volunteering, Burke taught kindergarten at the William Wharton Elementary School for 43 years.
"I was 41 years in the same classroom," she said.
When asked what it is that keeps her working with children, she replied: "I don't know. I think I was just born a teacher. I think people are. They are just able to interact with children. I was blessed to be able to do that."
Name: Bobbye R. Burke
Occupation: Retired teacher and volunteer
Community Connection: Taught kindergarten in the Houston Independent School District for 43 years; Memorial-area resident
Fast Fact: The Lewis Hine Awards are named after a photographer who in 1908, commissioned by the National Child Labor Committee, photographed children working in poor conditions.
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