If any year of school is more important than the last year of high school, it is the very first year - kindergarten.

And while senior year was cut short for 2020 graduates, a small group of students received a wonderful gift and reminder of their first year of school to compliment their last.

Christian Community School kindergarten teacher Patti Burris had been planning for this day. She sent each of her former kindergarten students a surprise gift for graduation.

The package contained photos from their time in her class, diary entries, artwork and a special note for each one. She has been quietly doing this for each of her former students as they graduate.

“This makes my heart smile. I have done this every year thus far for all my graduates. I pray they never forget our first year together and how proud I am of each of them,” Burris explained.

The reaction from both the students and parents was overwhelming. This year was especially hard for the graduates of 2020, but it was made brighter by the kindness of this special teacher.

Mom, Cindy Oakley said, “The package from Mrs. Burris was a wonderful graduation gift. It brought back so many memories. It’s really hard to put into words the impact she had on our family and in our boys’ lives. She generously gives her heart to the children in her classroom.”

Another mom said, “I just about lost my composure. I couldn’t read it out loud in front of my son. She is just so awesome, and that was wonderfully sneaky of her!”

Kemp Hodges said, “That was the sweetest thing ever!” I was totally surprised and he was too! I just think it was so cool that she kept all that stuff. What an amazing kindergarten teacher!  It definitely brought tears to my eyes. I already felt bad about their senior year being cut short, and then graduation getting delayed.

“So, a gift like that was bound to make a tear stream down my cheek. It was hands down the most thoughtful gift that he’s received. He’s had all the papers & pictures spread out on his dresser since he received it. It was really special for him. We can’t thank her enough.”

Rhonda Mitchell Felts said, “I was pretty emotional looking through the contents of the package. The photos of Eva and her classmates on field trips brought back sweet memories. She’s leaving for college in August. It’s so hard to believe she was ever that little.”

Lara and Joe Salsman said, “First reaction, after opening the envelope, was to cry. Senior year is already an emotional rollercoaster without having Covid-19 in the mix! Griffin could not believe Mrs. Burris had kept his pictures and other special memories for all these years.

“It warmed our hearts to receive this "little time capsule" in this time of quarantine and uncertainty. Patty Burris is a true treasure.”

My own reaction was tearful. My son was one of the unlucky class of 2020 and he missed out on spring sports, Prom, and all the precious things that a senior looks forward to for 12 long years.

On a particularly bad day of lockdown and zoom classes, he got a package from Mrs. Burris. We laughed and looked at all the photos and remembered happier times and the dreams and goals that a 5-year-old creates. We cherish this gift and the generous heart that gave us this treasure at just the right time.

Patti Burris has been teaching kindergarten for 23 years, first at College Heights Academy then at Christian Community School in White House where she remains today.

Recommended for you