In Memory

Marion "Kris" Hanson (Burns) VIEW PROFILE

8/1/1951 - 9/7/2016

Marion Kristine “Kris” Burns was born August 1, 1951, in Omaha to parents John A. and Marion V. Hanson. Kris grew up in Omaha and graduated from Omaha North High School. She received her bachelor's degree from Creighton University and master's degree and teaching certificates from the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Kris taught Spanish and History in the Omaha Public Schools. She met and married Joe Burns while she and Joe were teaching at Omaha Benson High School. After marriage, Kris stayed home to raise four children. Kris returned to teaching as a reading paraprofessional at Arbor Park when her youngest child, Emily, started school. After completing a master's degree and certification in ESL and reading, Kris taught at Golden Hills Elementary School in Papillion for one year before returning to Arbor Park as the reading teacher. Kris is survived by her husband, Joe Burns; her children: Erin, Sarah, Kevin and Emily Burns; her brothers and sisters, Doug Hanson, Debora Hanson-Gosnold, and Curtiss Hanson; and aunt, Dorothy Farthing.

Visitation is 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday at Forest Lawn Funeral Home in Omaha.

The family will have a private burial Monday at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Omaha.

Memorials are suggested to Blair Community Schools Foundation or Blair Public Library Foundation in memory of Kris.

Longtime Blair teacher dies unexpectedly

by Leeanna Ellis

Kris Burns will be remembered for her passion for books, and she passed that love on to her students every day.

Burns, 65, a Title I reading specialist at Arbor Park Intermediate School in Blair, died unexpectedly of heart failure Wednesday at an Omaha hospital.

She began working with Blair Community Schools in 1999 as a paraprofessional. She was hired at Arbor Park in 2007.

“She was so kind and sweet and just had a beautiful spirit,” said Liz Soderberg, a reading paraprofessional who worked with Burns. “I know she loved those kids. They looked forward to coming in. They really did.”

In addition to her classes, Burns began teaching whole group lessons in other classrooms.

“When I observed those lessons, I was able to witness magic,” Principal Mike Janssen said. “The magic was the way she would talk about the books to the students. She was always so excited to share the story. She could hook kids and get them to think, dream and connect the story to their own lives.”

In her classroom, Burns tried to make reading a fun experience for all students.

“She always tried to have fun things in her room for kids to read on and with,” librarian Sara Churchill said. “She always had fun stuff to sit on or cuddle with.”

The district's reading program encourages children to read books within their reading level, but children sometimes want to read outside of that, Churchill said.

“She was always a big proponent of letting them read things that they enjoyed,” said Churchill, who worked with Burns for the last nine years.

Janssen and Burns would often discuss curriculum and the latest research involving reading. Burns always had the same response.

“Mike, I have to get the students to like to read,” she would tell him. “That's the most important thing I can do. If they don't like it, they won't do it.”

“So that usually was the end of our discussions when she would play her trump card,” he said.

Burns was a "champion" for her students, Janssen said.

“She got to know her students very well. She would learn about their strengths and interests outside of school so she could find books they could relate to,” he said. “They always loved their extra time to work on their reading skills with Kris.”

Burns would often recommend books for Churchill to acquire for the library, but she also had quite a collection of her own in her classroom.

“She had so many great books,” Soderberg said. “She made sure she picked books that the kids would be really excited about. She put a lot of thought into that.”

Churchill described Arbor Park as a “close-knit” family that is now missing one of its members.

Churchill said one teacher had shared how some of her students were showing their support for Burns and her husband, Enterprise photographer Joe Burns, who would often visit the school to cover events and take photos for the "Classroom of the Week" feature.

A few students gave notes to their teacher to give to Joe.

“It's been tough,” she said.

Churchill said teachers are planning a memorial for Kris that will incorporate books and reading.

“We are all saddened and deflated by her death,” Supt. Rex Pfeil said in a statement. “Through her teaching, Kris supported and encouraged many students to enjoy reading and the worlds that reading opened. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Burns family.”

Prior to teaching in Blair, Kris taught Spanish and history for Omaha Public Schools. She also taught English as a second language at Golden Hills Elementary School in Papillion.

Kris is survived by her husband, Joe; her children, Erin, Sarah, Kevin and Emily Burns; brothers, Doug Hanson, Curtiss Hanson; ister, Debora Hanson-Gosnold; and aunt Dorothy Farthing.

Kris' family has scheduled a visitation for 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday at Forest Lawn Funeral Home in Omaha.

Click here to see Marion "Kris"'s last Profile entry.