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Second-graders fill student teacher’s cheering section

Student teacher and Pittsburg State guard Mikaela Burgess posed postgame with her students from the Carl Junction School District in Missouri. Pittsburg State University photo

Mikaela Burgess had never played before a crowd quite like this. “Miss Burgess, Miss Burgess!” they shouted as she warmed up, beaming when the senior guard and captain for the Pittsburg State women’s basketball team paused to give them high-fives.

It was the Gorillas’ season debut, an exhibition game that drew nearly 2,500 fans — including around 1,800 excited and energetic students from local elementary schools. But likely the most excited and energetic of them all? The 24 second-graders from Carl Junction, Missouri, who got to watch their student teacher, Burgess, compete on the court for the first time.

In the weeks leading up to the game, Burgess and her cooperating teacher, Alicia Shorter, had weaved basketball into their class planning, alternating between significant life lessons (how hard work allowed Burgess to play college basketball), fun facts (who was Michael Jordan) and practical basketball know-how (counting points).

So when the final score of the opener flashed 91-48 in favor of Pittsburg State, their students knew what that meant — to a degree. “Miss Burgess,” they exclaimed, “you scored 91 points!”

Sweaty and laughing, the student-athlete seized on yet another teaching moment — just after soaking in, for only a few seconds, that sweet second-grade stardom.

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Champion magazine goes behind the headlines and beyond the scoreboards to celebrate the unique connection between Americans and college sports. Champion is published by the NCAA.

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