A second-grade teacher in Vancouver, Washington, by the name of Laurie Burpee has been fighting cancer since her diagnosis in May 2019. In spite of her illness, the teacher maintained a positive and optimistic spirit. While Laurie has been on medical leave, her young students decided to surprise her for the holidays with a special caroling session that she’ll never forget.
A Scary Diagnosis
Laurie, who teaches at York Elementary School in Vancouver, was told by doctors that she had breast cancer. She underwent a double mastectomy but then, sadly, discovered she had a rare salivary gland cancer inside one of her breasts. The cancer has since metastasized to her lungs. Laurie went through six rounds of radiation and just finished her third round of chemotherapy. Though it’s a scary time for the second-grade teacher, she’s determined to keep on fighting.
While Laurie’s been on medical leave, her elementary school began a kindness project in her honor. The teacher is known for asking people to do random acts of kindness for others for her birthday. Inspired by that, teachers and students share their good deeds on signs hung up in classrooms as well as on a Facebook page where other community members can participate. Inspired by other students that have surprised their teachers, the community had another great idea planned for Laurie to cheer her up for the holidays.
A Special Surprise
One night, Laurie was shocked to see a big light and a bunch of people, including almost 30 kids, outside of her house. “I thought, ‘There are kids out there,’ and then I thought, ‘There are a lot of kids out there,'” the teacher said in an interview with Good Morning America. “When I went to the door and saw they were kids from school, the tears started to flow.”
The kids were students from the elementary school’s choir and were joined by the principal. The surprise guests, decked out in Santa hats, began singing Christmas carols to brighten Laurie’s night. A parent of one of Laurie’s former students had originally suggested the idea. The teacher admitted that the surprise has been a little overwhelming, but that she was so happy to see everyone come out to support her.
A Surprising Citation
As Laurie walked to her front lawn to listen to the children sing, she noticed that police cars were quickly showing up on her street. She immediately thought that someone had called the cops on a noise violation. “I went into teacher mode, thinking, ‘Oh no, something is happening and I’m going to need to put all these kids in my house,'” Laurie recalled. “I had no idea.” The county sheriff and other police officers approached Laurie, but not for the reason she originally thought.
Instead, the officers issued Laurie a “Kindness 911” citation. They had collaborated with Kindness 911, a local nonprofit organization that was started by a middle school teacher in the community. The organization regularly partners with police officers to recognize those doing great things in their community, often through these “citations.” The document read, “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.”
The citation also thanked Laurie for her kindness in the midst of her illness. “Even when faced with overwhelming circumstances, you are a light. Thank you for your commitment to your students and your York Elementary family,” the citation continued. Laurie was also presented with VIP tickets to watch her favorite baseball team, the Seattle Mariners, and tickets to a concert. It was certainly a huge night that this incredible teacher won’t ever forget.
There are definitely some great teachers out here making an incredible impact on their students much like Laurie. Watch her receive her huge holiday surprises in the clip below!
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