Pinkerton, New Hampshire students rally for beloved teacher
DERRY, N.H. (AP) — “I have bad news, you have colon cancer.”
Seventy-one-year-old Pinkerton Academy substitute teacher Dennis Burdick of Derry heard those words from his doctor five weeks ago.
When his students heard about the diagnosis, they were prompted to take action.
Danny Jacques set up a GoFundMe page on April 16 for Burdick and his wife Martha, who is in need of a kidney transplant. The page hit goals of raising $5,000 and $7,500 and now has a current goal of $10,000.
So far, the campaign has raised more than $9,000 in five days, with contributions from 411 people with donations ranging from $5 to $325.
“Mr. Burdick generously donates his time to work as a substitute teacher, something that doesn’t get as much recognition as it should,” according to the GoFundMe page description. “He’s the nicest guy around. All of his students put their best foot forward when Mr. Burdick is in charge.”
″(I was) shocked, totally shocked,” Burdick said of his reaction when he learned about the GoFundMe page.
But it was not just Burdick who was well thought of by the students. Burdick said he has heard of two students inquiring about Martha’s blood type because they are interested in possibly donating a kidney to her.
“I was overwhelmed with it,” Burdick said.
Burdick said he was concerned about his diagnosis because he was worried it may hinder taking care of his wife, who used to work in the Pinkerton kitchen.
A substitute teacher at Pinkerton for six years, Burdick does not have a teaching background. He was in the moving business for 42 years before signing up to substitute.
Burdick said he went into the substitute role with the mindset that “if I show them respect, it’ll come back — and it came back better than anticipated.”
According to Burdick, students really enjoy listening to his stories. One experience Burdick likes to share with students is the time he met John F. Kennedy.
Burdick said as a child he met Kennedy in Concord with his father, who was the president of the Union Letter Carriers for New Hampshire at the time. His father and other union leaders were invited to discuss the needs of workers in New Hampshire. Burdick got a picture with Kennedy and a signed letter.
Burdick then shared the letter and the picture with his class when he was a student at Pinkerton. He recalls holding both possessions in hand when the he found out Kennedy had been assassinated. Years later, he shared the story about Kennedy with students.
Seventeen-year-old former Pinkerton student Daniel Herrero mentioned the Kennedy story when he talked about his favorite memories of Burdick.
“If you ask anybody from Pinkerton they’ll tell you he’s a really amazing man,” Herrero said.
Burdick says he will remain a substitute at Pinkerton “as long as my health allows me.”
Information from: Eagle Tribune (North Andover, Mass.), http://www.eagletribune.com