A second-grade teacher in Vancouver, Washington, who is fighting breast cancer, was moved to tears when a group of nearly 30 students sang Christmas carols for their beloved teacher on her front lawn on Monday night, Dec. 9.
Laurie Burpee, 60, has taught for more than five years at York Elementary School. She was diagnosed with cancer in May, but then Burpee learned that she had a rare salivary gland cancer inside one of her breasts. Cancer has since metastasized to her lungs.
Burpee began a medical leave from her job in October and left behind 20 second-grade students. She also left a legacy of kindness. Burpee has an annual tradition that is organizing a day of random acts of kindness with her friends on her birthday.
As she continues to receive cancer treatment, the elementary school has launched a kindness project in her honor.
“She’s family to me and I love her,” 9-year-old Alysha Scala told KGW. “I miss seeing her in the halls cause I don’t get to have a hug.”
The school’s classrooms are hanging signs ,which give teachers and students the opportunity to share and provide inspiration for the acts. A Facebook page, where other community members can share their good deeds, was created.
“She’s just this loving heart,” York Elementary Principal Dawn Harris, who has known her for 17 years, said of Burpee. “She reminds us that we need to show kindness every day … and we’re continuing to live that in our building because of her.”
On Monday evening, Burpee noticed a light and a bunch of “little Santa hats” in her front yard. To her surprise, nearly 30 students including the York Elementary School choir students, the principal, and parents gathered on the front lawn singing Christmas carols to Burpee.
“I thought there are kids out there and then I thought, there are a lot of kids out there,” Burpee told “Good Morning America.” “When I went to the door and saw they were kids from school, the tears started to flow.”
Police cars started racing down her residential street but they did not arrive to handle a disturbance in her neighborhood as Burpee had feared. They gave her what they call a “kindness 911 citation.”
“You are the embodiment of kindness and have a positive impact on every person you know … and many you don’t know. Thank you for being an example of kindness, compassion, and goodwill. Even when faced with overwhelming circumstances you are a light. Thank you for your commitment to your students and your York Elementary family. May this night remind you that you are never alone and we look forward to walking with you through your metamorphosis where you will most definitely be a beautiful butterfly.”
Police officers and the county sheriff from Clark County Sheriff showed up on Burpee’s lawn to present her with not just the citation but also VIP tickets to watch her beloved Seattle Mariners play baseball and tickets for a local concert venue.
“It was just overwhelming but what a wonderful, wonderful, surprise,” Burpee told GMA. “The best part was the kids. I miss those kids so much and I miss my colleagues.”
“This is what pumps us up,” Clark County Sheriff Chuck Atkins said to KGW. “This is what helps us go out and just keep doing what we’re doing.”