Avondale Elementary School teacher Buffy Burroughs would wrap her arms around her entire class of giggling, squirming and chattering first-graders all at once, if she could. Even though she can't, much of what she does likely imparts the same emotion.

Avondale Elementary School teacher Buffy Burroughs would wrap her arms around her entire class of giggling, squirming and chattering first-graders all at once, if she could. Even though she can't, much of what she does likely imparts the same emotion.

She teaches first-graders the fundamentals of reading, math and other subjects but also helps them feel safe, warm and loved, said former teacher Sue Boothe, who volunteers in Burroughs' classroom.

Boothe, who nominated Burroughs for the Teachers of the Year award, said she worries about what happens to every child after leaving school each day.

"She has taken students shopping for clothes, including coats and shoes, and brought extra clothes to school, so those children could change while she washed their things overnight," Boothe said. "She eats lunch with students once a week and provides supplies out of her own single-parent budget."

She also sent food bags home every Friday for two years before the school received a grant to fund the provision of weekend food, and has organized Thanksgiving dinners at the school.

Burroughs, 40, lives in Worthington and has been a teacher with Columbus City Schools for 17 years. She has taught at Avondale for the past six years.

She said she was surprised to be named among the Teachers of the Year. Burroughs found out she won during a surprise announcement at a school talent show May 27 where her daughters were invited.

"I felt very honored to be presented this award with my family and co-workers in attendance," she said.

Burroughs is matter-of-fact about her students' needs, both inside and outside the classroom. She finds a way to meet those needs, just as she would those of her own daughters, Zoe, 7, and Ava, 11.

"When teaching children at this age, people need to understand that all of these children come with different life experiences," Burroughs said. "If you embrace these life experiences, rather than using them as excuses, you can educate the whole child."

Before accepting a full-time teaching position in Columbus, she held substitute-teaching posts in Akron and New York. She completed her bachelor's degree in 1998 at Kent State University. In 2001, she received a master's degree in education from Ashland University, then in 2012 completed a second master's degree through Walden University.

"Through my school-age years I did not have a teacher that was influential, so I wanted to become the teacher who made a difference in a kid's life," she said. "One of the best things about teaching is getting to influence a new group of kids each year. I also enjoy getting to know them and their families."

Avondale Principal April Knight said Burroughs is "a dedicated educator who values each child and works tirelessly to ensure that each student's educational experience is positive, engaging and successful."

"Buffy recognizes the challenges that our children face on a daily basis and goes above and beyond to make an impact on each child's life," Knight said.

Every child has great potential, Burroughs said.

"Every student can learn," she said. "Sometimes finding the hook that motivates them is tricky, but by building relationships with the students, you can help them find greatness."

Boothe said she was thrilled to learn Burroughs won.

"Buffy is so dedicated to her profession and the entire community she serves," she said. "In my 35-plus years as a teacher, I never met anyone more devoted, and I'm extremely proud to call her a colleague and friend."