For Rex Burkhead, it is no coincidence that Mother's Day falls during Teacher Appreciation Week. His mother, Robyn Burkhead, has been an elementary school teacher for more than 15 years at Jackson Elementary School in Plano, Texas.
Though Rex never attended Jackson Elementary School, he saw day in and day out the work his mother put in to help her students.
"I always thought my mom was the greatest woman in the world, so it is cool just because when you're in your teenage years, you think you know everything and everything revolves around you," Rex said. "To see [her students] come back as adults and show how much she meant to them and how much guidance she gave to them, I know there's been a few of them who were like, 'I was really dealing with some stuff and you changed my ways.' That just shows how much she's meant to these kids in her life."
Not only did seeing how respected his mom is among her current and former students impact Rex, he realized that being both a teacher and a mom are full-time jobs that regularly overlap. For her students, Robyn is often a "mother figure," Rex said, and when he was a student himself, Robyn served as "another tutor" at home.
"She really made me understand the importance of school, understand what it took to be a good student," Rex said. And having some insider knowledge about what teachers look for while grading homework didn't hurt either, he admitted with a laugh.
Robyn taught mostly fourth grade over her career and just this year made the switch to fifth grade. Just before leaving to watch her son play in Super Bowl 53, her students and fellow teachers surprised her by decking out her room in Patriots gear. This type of support and kindness is unsurprising, as Rex said his mom preaches teamwork in her classroom.
"The team atmosphere, my mom is big on that," he said. "She's big on having her class work together in groups on certain things. Grit is her big word. If there's something you struggle with, just really pushing through and studying, making sure you have it down."
This type of attitude impressed upon Rex and the hundreds of students coming through Robyn's classroom over the years creates life lessons beyond math, English and science. It teaches humility, good morals and respect, Rex said. Seeing her wake up at 5 a.m. and return at 5 p.m., work longer days to accommodate her students' parents and give so much of herself to her classroom taught Rex the discipline and professionalism to excel as a football player, and more importantly, as a person.
"It’s an honor to be her son," Rex said. "She’s impacted that community a ton in Plano and done so much for that school impacted so many kids."