Mrs. Burstein's Former Student Sends Heartwarming Gift to her Class
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Thursday, December 01, 2016
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Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” For Veterans Park 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Elysa Burstein, this quote was shining bright when an unexpected package arrived to her classroom from a former student, Ms. Brittany Benjamin. Benjamin was a student in Burstein’s 2000-2001 4th grade class at Chapin Street School; her second year of teaching.

Opening the package Burstein and her students discovered an array of classroom supplies from stickers to crayons and markers to colored pencils. “I remember Brittany as a cute, bright, fun, and kind girl who made everyone smile.  So I am not surprised that she took the time and expense to make such a generous and thoughtful donation to my classroom,”  reflected Burstein.  

“Beyond the supplies,” Burstein added,  “I was most touched by the handwritten note that was tucked inside the box. To know, that after sixteen years, a former student wanted to give back and make a difference is heartwarming.”

In part, the note from Benjamin read, “I hope your school year is going well so far.  I remember when I was in 4th grade.  I also remember how kind, creative and compassionate my teacher was-- and guess what-- she is your teacher now, too!  You are very lucky!

Current 4th grade student, Sarah Tatro, wholeheartedly agreed with Benjamin, “I'm lucky to have Mrs. Burstein- she is a great teacher.  She has a calm personality and does lots of nice, and fun things to help us learn better.”

“The first memory I have of my 4th grade classroom is of a banner Mrs. Burstein hung above the chalkboard that read: “Never settle for less than your best,” shared Benjamin.  “It was a mantra for the entire school year that she always referred to before a test or quiz, and even as a gentle reminder to always shine our brightest.”

Several years later Benjamin observed Burstein’s class as part of a children’s literacy course while in college. “Walking into her new classroom at Veteran’s Park I noticed that, in many ways, not much had changed. The banner still hung above the chalkboard to inspire her students to never settle for less that their best, and her demeanor was exactly the same -- poised and confident, friendly and approachable.”

Her former teacher was pleased to learn that Benjamin currently is working for the South Orangetown Middle School in Blauvelt, New York as a long-term sub, teaching 7th and 8th grade English.  Her path to a teaching career began at Holyoke Community College and continued at Saint Thomas Aquinas College in New York where she obtained both her Bachelor’s degree in English, followed by her Master’s degree in Secondary Education.

Burstein, and now Benjamin, understand that although teaching reading, writing and math are the backbone of education, weaving essential life skills into the curriculum such as empathy, kindness, sharing, and acceptance are equally as essential. They believe that it is these skills that help to build a positive classroom culture and overflow into the greater community to help cultivate a more positive and accepting society.

On the day that Benjamin filled the package with classroom supplies to send to her former 4th grade teacher, she also wrapped up many of those essential life skills, which warmed her 4th grade teacher’s heart, brought smiles to her students, and highlighted Winston Churchill’s quote, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”


Mrs. Burstein with her current students.

Mrs. Burstein holding the package of gifts she received and pointing to a picture of her former student, Brittany Benjamin, in the year 2000, when she was a student in her 4th grade classroom.

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