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Burnette honored as 2021 ‘Teacher of the Year’ at Horizon

MADISON – Bria Burnette is 2021 “Teacher of the Year” at Horizon Elementary School.

Burnette has taught entirely at Horizon since her start in January 2016, initially as a Title I tutor. She then began classroom instruction for second- and third-graders. She has sponsored the Horizon Math Team for three years and co-sponsored Kind Kids Club.

“I will be continuing my teaching journey at Midtown Elementary next school year,” Burnette said.

“My philosophy and mission in teaching is to always leave my students better than when they found me by encouraging them to believe in themselves and be the change that is needed in our world,” Burnette said. “I teach my students that they are ‘Change Makers’ — they can make a big impact in their little world!”

Burnette believes in nurturing her students’ interests and passions, instilling needed confidence to become strong readers and leaders and establishing a positive classroom environment for comfortable learning and growing together.

Each day, her students declare their class mission statement; discuss happy experiences they’ve shared or problems; and begin with a morning meeting to proclaim encouraging mantras, like “I can do hard things.”

Showing they do master difficulties, Burnette’s students learned to edit and create Google Slides, collaborated with Schoology comment boards, practice whole-body listening and used troubleshooting for technical issues. Her students embodied this mantra by telling each other, ‘Don’t give up; you can do hard things” during a year of new material, flipflopping to hybrid learning or rebuilding a STEM creation.

“Our students are the true superheroes of this school year,” Burnette said.

“I also utilize a flexible-seating model that gives students some autonomy in the classroom, which allows them to be more metacognitive about the ways that they learn best,” Burnette said. “This model has looked very different during this particular school year, but the students worked really hard to come up with new and creative ways to have comfortable, alternative seating options that were still safe and maintained social distancing.”

Her philosophy and classroom environment helps student understand that she prioritizes their needs — both academic and social-emotional — above all else. “I’m my students’ biggest cheerleader, their greatest advocate and a student of mine is my student forever,” Burnette said.

Burnette lived in Estill Springs, Tenn. until entering the University of Alabama at Huntsville. She earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education with a minor in Spanish and Language and Culture concentration. She is a National Board Certified Teacher in the area of literacy.

Her husband Brandon Waller works as an electrician for H.C. Blake Company. “We have a sweet dog named Suki that we love,” she said.

An avid reader, Bria enjoys a home library of 400-plus books … and always growing. She shares her passion of reading and constantly recommends books to friends and coworkers. For student families, Bria finds books or series in which they are represented.

Bria likes to travel to visit her family and spend time with Brandon and Suki.

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