Nancy Hanks Burnett, 70, teacher who had the knack of making learning fun

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Nancy Hanks Burnett
Nancy Hanks Burnett

WILMINGTON — Once in a great while, a teacher comes into your life and changes your world. Nancy Hanks Burnett was one of those teachers. She passed from this life on Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017.

An esteemed teacher of English, speech and drama in New Hanover Public Schools, Ms. Burnett was regarded by her students as a mentor and coach. Her work in directing plays, and in her own performances in civic theater events in the Wilmington area, is well known by a generation of theatergoers. A member of the Thalian Association of Wilmington, she was recognized as Best Supporting Actress in a local production of How to Succeed at Business Without Really Trying. She attended Mt. Aloysius College in Cresson, Pa., and earned her B.A. degree in communications and secondary education from Carlow University in Pittsburgh. She retired from teaching in 1992 following 21 years at New Hanover High School and one year at Cape Fear Academy. Prior to teaching in North Carolina, Ms. Burnett served on the faculty at Slippery Rock High School in Slippery Rock, Pa., and East Lyme Public Schools in East Lyme, Conn. She was inducted into the Delta Kappa Gamma Society for Teaching Excellence. More recently, Ms. Burnett was mistress of ceremonies for Celebrate Wilmington Walk of Fame inductions for several years.

Once in a great while, a teacher comes into your life and changes your world. She makes an impression that lasts a lifetime. She respected you as you respected her; she accepted you as you accepted her; and she encouraged you, and because of that, you encouraged her – to be the finest teacher ever – so it was with Nancy Hanks Burnett.

Though it has been many years since Nancy retired, she still has a following of inspired students, who never forgot her lifelong lessons. She enjoyed teaching her subject matter, and her room was filled with a spirit of positivity – and smiling faces because Nancy had the knack of making learning fun.

Nancy used to teach an old familiar quote: “Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts, others to be read, but not curiously, and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.”

So it is with teachers – and Nancy Hanks Burnett was one to be “digested” – “read wholly, and with diligence and attention.”

Ms. Burnett was preceded in death by her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Landon Hanks of Wilmington, N.C.

Those left to cherish her memory are her first cousins, Denning Buchter of New Bern, N.C.; John Buchter of Savannah, Ga.; Elizabeth Bernhardt of Palo Alto, Calif.; Linda Lackey of Gibsonia, Pa.; and her former husband and friend, the Hon. Gilbert Burnett of Wilmington, and his children.

A viewing will be held at from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 8, at Andrews Mortuary on Market Street in Wilmington. A memorial service will be held on at 11 a.m. Monday, Jan. 9, at Andrews Market Street Chapel following a viewing that commences at 10 a.m.

She was also a great animal lover, and a longtime member of the New Hanover County Humane Society. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Ms. Burnett’s name to the New Hanover County Humane Society, 2405 North 23rd St., Wilmington, NC 28405 (Phone: 910-763-6692).