I first heard about Ms. Burke when I interviewed a young man who lives in Bernal Dwellings, the housing project just north of Cesar Chavez. He had been shot in a drive-by when he was 17 and still in high school.

He credited his social science teacher in helping him get through the rough months of recovery after the shooting. “Ms. Burke’s like my godmother,” the young man said.

So I looked her up. She invited me to her financial literacy class at John O’Connell High School. Convinced that what she teaches her young students is an act of social justice, Ms. Burke is also open about her own personal story. Her tribulations and life lessons inspire closeness and trust in her students that’s unmatched by the school district curriculum.

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Ms. B. Photo by Mimi Chakarova.