Mr. Mike Burns was a fixture at Highlands High School. He was a teacher and a multi-sport coach that pushed students to achieve for 37 years. His brash personality preceded him, but his passion for helping his pupils was unwavering.
Mike himself was a gifted athlete specifically in football and softball. He played both sports in college and coached both sports at Highlands. He led one Lloyd football team to a state championship and led four Highlands football teams to the same pinnacle of success.
Mike’s personal athletic achievements include Greater Cincinnati Softball Hall of Fame inductee in 1997, and he was also inducted into the Northern Kentucky Coaches Hall of Fame and the Tioga (PA) County Sports Hall of Fame.
I experienced Coach Burns in the classroom as well as on the football field. He was a focused and diligent leader in both areas. Behind the desk he taught American History and Government; behind the whistle he taught running backs and defensive backs. I remember him being an outstanding teacher with a wealth of knowledge on his particular subjects. I remember him stressing the importance of your right to vote, which I am sure all of his students are taking advantage of soon. On the football field he had an in-your-face coaching style. He stressed the importance of being physical with the offensive opponent utilizing his patented fore arm shiver move. Many running backs would complain of having nightmares of Coach Burns repeatedly yelling at them “The ball is in the wrong arm!” Coach obviously was doing something right because during his tenure at Highlands the team churned out outstanding running backs and defensive backs year after year. He was a position coach, but every person that went through the football program under Mike Burns benefited from interacting with a person like him; a true leader.
I gathered information from students and athletes that interacted with Mike Burns to show a broader example of what a great person he was. Here are some thoughts regarding Mike Burns’ legacy at Highlands High School:
Ø He started off the first day of school with a saying – “Out there (pointing out the window) it is a democracy. In here, it is a dictatorship.”
Ø If someone fell asleep in his class he would somehow create a noise that could wake the dead. (Note - Students were quick to find out; you do not fall asleep in Mr. Burns’ class.)
Ø He molded boys into men on the football field
Ø Incredible softball coach and friend
Ø Great colleague, coach, and friend
Ø He knew how to connect with the students to keep their interest, but at the same time educate them on extremely important issues. He was an educator through and through, truly special.
Mr. Michael G. Burns was an outstanding coach and teacher, but he was an even better person. He influenced the lives of everyone around him whether it was in the classroom, on the diamond, or the football field. Everyone who was afforded the opportunity to spend time with Mr. Burns is better for it. People like him do not come around very often; he will be missed.