This week's Teacher You Can Count On began a career in a nuclear weapons facility. The last thing this chemistry teacher wanted to have was a career in education. Now, after twelve years, she can't imagine doing anything else. NewsChannel 11's Suleika Acosta takes us to Coronado High School and brings us her story.
Janie Burkhalter has a passion for chemistry but it wasn't until after college that she decided to teach it. "When I went to college I didn't want to teach at all, that was the last thing I wanted to do. In fact I tell my students I thought it was stupid," she admits.
But Mrs. Burkhalter's attitude took a turn for the better. Becoming a mother opened her eyes to the importance of education and the influence of teachers. "The way they can really interact with the students and make a difference and I wanted to do that," she says.
So she began as a substitute teacher and in no time, she had a classroom all her own. Today, Mrs. Burkhalter views teaching as a calling, taking her chemistry students to higher levels of learning. "I think it's important to get them active and involved, not just have them sit and listen," says the teacher.
"It's better than doing book work, like actually doing stuff than just sitting down taking notes," says Jaime, a student. Students say Mrs. Burkhalter's investigative teaching style challenges them and leads them to discovering scientific concepts on their own. "It's kind of like critical thinking the way she makes you think and so it makes you think a lot harder and actually understand things in your own terms," says another student, Victoria.
The challenges don't stop there. Mrs. Burkhalter says student interest and morale are also top priorities. "Just trying to reach that child that just really doesn't care or they say I can't do science or math, and you have to show them, yes you can. Here do this," she says. And Mrs. Burkhalter discovers her very own scientific formula for being a great teacher: believing in yourself and your students. "Maybe they're not so good in science but they still can be successful," she says.
Mrs. Burkhalter also sponsors the Coronado High School National Honor Society and a faculty prayer group.
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