Student Nomination Story

I can't even begin to explain how Sra. de Berzunza has changed my life. I first met her on Zoom, in 2020, the beginning of 7th grade. She intimidated me—I'd been told that she worked her students hard, and was strict. Not many teachers at our school were especially strict, and going into her class, I was incredibly nervous. I'd never even met her before. I am an eighth grader at Longfellow, the last year at this K-8 school. I've grown up with these kids, having known them since I was 5. Since we've been studying Spanish since kindergarten, Sra. de Berzunza also teaches us AP Spanish, but I'm choosing to write about our US History class. I don't think many kids in my class respect Sra. de Berzunza enough. In her classroom, at about 9:45 every day, second period, the whole world comes alive, for all 34 of us, whether we realize it or not. There's something so engaging about the way she teaches, making us feel as if we were truly in the Revolutionary War, or at the Constitutional Convention. Through her work, you can tell how much she wants to be there, how much she wants to learn, and how she'll do whatever it takes to help you understand even the most complex concepts. I recall just yesterday, in her classroom, learning about the War of 1812. She handed out wooden poles to my group of four in the back, pretending she was a British soldier giving out weapons to the Native Americans, to help them fight against the US soldiers. She had my friend, Addison, playing the Native American leader Tecumseh, walk away, while I , the Native American in charge, was given a silver cup. She explained how the person I was playing was an alcoholic, and as Tecumseh died, did not help save my people. There's a certain energy in the room—you can feel it. The stare of 33 other eyes on you, because suddenly, you aren't just reading the slides of a presentation , you're watching the history play out right in front of your very eyes. And it's not like this rarely occurs. Frequently, in her classroom, pencils turn into war weapons, a binder is suddenly the Constitution, or half the class suddenly turns into the British government. It's truly magic. At other times, she will dress up as a historical character, and have prepared an entire twenty minute presentation, all in character, explaining how life was back then. In one instance she dressed up as Anne Burras, and pretended we were other pilgrims, warning us of the illnesses that were taking over new settlements in Virginia in the seventeenth century. I cannot imagine all the work she puts into these presentations, and have never in my life seen a teacher do so much for their students. Teenagers want nothing more than to find a way to sneak screen time in on their phones in class, but as soon as they enter Sra. de Berzunza's class, those urges are gone. You don't even want to blink, or you fear you might miss the Battle of Trenton, or Washington's resignation. She has traveled to many historical sights around the country, and for us, she has kept the pamphlets she has collected. I am especially in awe at this level of care, holding on to these pieces of paper...just for us. These pieces of paper that others might not have even collected, or might have recycled. It just shows how much she cares for us both inside and outside of the classroom. But somehow, her work has also touched me on a personal level. I, of course, admire all of my teachers, for the work they put into my education, but I don't see Sra. de Berzunza as my teacher anymore. She's my mentor. I've never felt like that about any of my other teachers before. I can't put my finger on exactly what it is. It's just a sudden feeling, that says, "I want to be exactly like you." Magical, and inspiring. And now I completely understand why one might want to be a teacher. To have such an impact on a person's life, especially an adolescent. To see them and help them grow. How powerful. Sra. de Berzunza has opened completely new doors for me. She has opened up my mind to think of new possibilities, to take a new perspective on the world. I am forever grateful for her, and for my extreme luck, to be able to cross paths with her in this one life. I compel myself to keep going because of her belief in me. I can already tell she has changed the direction of my life, whether I become a teacher, inspired by her, or if I simply carry the knowledge and inspiration I have accumulated from her with me for the rest of my life. I know she'll be especially hard to say goodbye to at the end of this school year.

Anne Lawrence

To see more exceptional teacher nominees, visit The Honor Roll.