Gina Burst – who is poised to start her 15th year of teaching this fall – has spent her entire instructional career at Norco Elementary School.
“I student taught with Mrs. Karen Wilson in the PK4 class, and I was lucky enough for them to have an opening right when I graduated,” she said.
And while Burst has taught first grade for a handful of her years, the bulk of her time has been spent being a kindergarten teacher. It is a career, she said, that almost didn’t happen.
“When I first started in college I was studying hotel, restaurant and tourism management,” she said.
But just a year away from graduating college, Burst took an internship with Disney and realized her major may not be the best fit for what she wanted for her life.
“I didn’t like the corporate aspect of it,” she said of her major. “I did a little soul searching and gravitated toward education. My road kind of led me in a different direction. I think I just needed that time to see and decide that this is what I really should be doing.”
And even though she lost nearly two years of college credit with her major switch, she said has no regrets.
“It was for the better,” Burst said, adding she still utilizes a lot of what she learned in her college management classes. “A lot of that helped with the leadership track I’m on … so did waiting tables in college. I feel like a lot of my skills of interacting with other people and working with different personalities came from that time.”
Norco Elementary Principal Shannon Diodene said Burst is a leader at both the school and district level and is well-respected by her peers.
“She is an active member of our community and is always willing to help our families, students and faculty,” Diodene said.
For Burst, she said it’s easy to identify what she loves most about her Norco Elementary.
“The kids … it’s the kids,” she said. “It’s the community … it’s the loving family atmosphere that everyone at Norco brings and develops. I wouldn’t be the teacher I am today without my coworkers and the staff and leadership. They make it an enjoyable place to be … I want to go to work every day because I get to see my school family.”
Burst is currently co-chair of school improvement team and also serves on the Eagle Student Advisory Team. The latter program trains 5th graders to be student ambassadors.
“It develops their own leadership skills and gets them on different service projects,” Burst said. “We try to help them develop their leadership skills so when they transition over to Hurst they have something they’re bringing to the table to help them on their middle school journey.”
As for her own journey, Burst has completed her master’s degree in educational leadership and is currently in the leadership pool for the school district. When the time and opportunity are right, she said, she would love to move into a leadership position.
“I know that I am very happy where I am,” Burst said. “I know I always want to work with kids, so being in a school is very important to me. I feel like every student is placed in my life for a reason, whether in my classroom or in my school. I love making that difference and positive impact … I’m just waiting for the right fit.”
Burst will receive a $25 gift card to Birdies.