DEWITT, Iowa — When you think of a typical high school gym class, emotions often run high.
Usually, that's thanks to a tough workout in the weight room or a challenging activity in the gym. However, that's not what raised emotions at Central DeWitt High school.
Instead, it was junior Naomi Ubel walking into Mrs. Burbach's class, surprising her with this year's "My Favorite Teacher" award.
Mrs. Burbach has been teaching at Central DeWitt High School for about 14 years. She is also a coach at the middle school.
"She has the best personality ever and it just makes it fun," Naomi said, describing why Mrs. Burbach is her favorite teacher. "It makes you enjoy coming to school every day."
Naomi transferred to Central DeWitt from North Scott High School last year as a sophomore. She met Mrs. Burbach through a personal fitness class, who later worked with Naomi through the weight of life's challenges.
"I could just go up to her in class and be like 'I'm having an anxiety attack' and she'd walk out with me and do some breathing exercises with me," Naomi said. "She'd comfort me, tell me to go sit in her office."
Naomi has created a special bond with Mrs. Burbach over the past year, which makes this recognition even more rewarding.
"I love being able to sit down with them and give them advice whether it be from a teaching perspective, from a parent perspective, from an older sister perspective," Mrs. Burbach said.
That's a perspective Mrs. Burbach knows her students need most, especially when navigating an often stressful balance between life both in and outside of the classroom.
"Some of these kids are really hurting," Mrs. Burbach said. "And they need to have a safe place to come. They need to have a shoulder to lean on."
The feeling is mutual.
"Teachers go through so much and I feel that she needed something to prove to her that like she is the best and we do love her," Naomi said.
Gym class often brings out our best effort. Mrs. Burbach's efforts bring out the best in her students.
Watch previous "My Favorite Teacher" stories on News 8's YouTube channel
Each year, News 8 features five outstanding educators who have been nominated by students throughout eastern Iowa and western Illinois who want to recognize "My Favorite Teacher." WQAD News 8 is proud to partner with Blackhawk Bank & Trust, Bard Optical, Carpetland USA and SERVPRO for this year's contest.