Anthony Burns launches rockets from the ball field of North Hills Middle School in Pittsburgh as part of teaching his students science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics.
However, the sixth-grade teacher found himself over the moon when Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Brian Dumoulin informed him via video that he had won the NHL and NHLPA Future Goals Most Valuable Teacher Award presented by SAP for January.
Burns was beaming behind his face mask when he received a giant $10,000 check for technology equipment for his school district as part of the award by the NHL, NHL Players' Association and SAP.
"It's not every day that Iceburgh (the Penguins mascot) shows up to school to surprise you with a giant check," Burns said. "I can't begin to express my gratitude for the overwhelming support I received from my colleagues, students and the community or the generous donation from SAP."
Burns is the first of three Most Valuable Teachers of the Month winners as part of this year's NHL and NHLPA Future Goals Most Valuable Teacher Program presented by SAP.
Video: Nominate your Most Valuable Teacher of the Month
Fans can vote for Teacher of the Month nominees for February and March at NHL.com/MVT. Each fan can vote once per day for their favorite nominee.
Sixty Future Goals teachers from across North America will be recognized this year, an increase from the 36 that were recognized last year. In addition, the voting numbers and social media support for the teachers has more than doubled from last year with NHL Clubs and school districts rallying behind their local teachers.
The final voting between the January, February and March winners will take place May 3-7 during Teacher Appreciation Week and culminate with the crowning of the NHL and NHLPA Future Goals Most Valuable Teacher of the Year presented by SAP.
The winner's school district will receive an additional $20,000 technology donation from SAP making a total of $50,000 donated by SAP for the second year of the program.
The Future Goals program is a major North American initiative that brings interactive, educational opportunities to each of the 31 NHL markets in the U.S. and Canada, and hundreds of other communities.
The program uses the Hockey Scholar course, a fast-paced hockey-themed STEM curriculum for elementary and middle school-aged students, powered by EverFi, a Washington, D.C.-based technology company.
Thursday, on Digital Learning Day, the NHL and NHLPA celebrate that more than 3.2 million students across North America have gone through Hockey Scholar, accounting for 6.5 million hours of learning and making it one of the biggest youth engagement education programs in the world. The course averages a 84-percent increase in STEM knowledge gain after taking the course and approximately 50 percent of the schools participating in the Future Goals program are low to moderate income level schools.
It has become an even greater resource during the global pandemic with many schools in the United States and Canada resorting to virtual learning with classrooms shuttered due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.
To help, the NHL and NHLPA for the first time offered free online access to Future Goals to all families in North America. Parents looking for more information, including how to enroll for free, can visit nhl.com/futuregoals.
"SAP is honored to participate in the NHL/NHL Players' Association Most Valuable Teacher program celebrating our teacher heroes and all of the teachers who are inspirations to us during these challenging times, said Amy Schulz, senior director of SAP Global Sponsorships. "At SAP, we have long supported STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) learning and digital literacy, including with the NHL and EVERFI, and hope that our donations towards new technology resources in schools can play an impactful role in enhancing the learning experience for students around the country."
Rob Knesaurek, NHL Group Vice president of Youth Development and Industry Growth, said the League is pleased to partner with SAP, the NHLPA and EverFi to salute teachers and recognize their important roles in communities.
"These Future Goals teachers have an extremely positive influence in all aspects of a child's life, not only inspiring students to pursue future STEM careers, but also helping to impart values, build character, and shape future generations of responsible citizens," Knesaurek said. "We're also thankful to SAP, our program presenter, who will help local school districts with technology donations for our monthly winners in January, February and March, and the final Most Valuable Teacher winner."
Rob Zepp, the NHLPA's Manager of Special Projects, agreed.
"This is why we are once again thrilled to have the chance to recognize and celebrate teachers, and all they do, through the Most Valuable Teacher as part of our NHL and NHLPA Future Goals program," he said.
Photo: North Hills School District