News Release

Nicole S. Rowe
Administrative Assistant, Public Relations
320 DuPont Highway
New Castle, DE 19720

2006 National Teacher of the Year Speaks at Wilmington University’s Student Teacher Orientation

Kimberly Oliver Burnim, the 2006 National Teacher of the Year and a Wilmington University alumna spoke at the Division of Education’s Student Teacher Orientation yesterday, August 6 at the New Castle Campus. Around 90 Wilmington University graduate and undergraduate Education students gathered in the Doberstein Admissions Center Auditorium to participate in this orientation that is designed to prepare students to be successful student teachers.

“This will be your culminating experience,” said Sylvia Brooks, Coordinator of Clinical Studies at Wilmington University, as she addressed the crowd, “You are all here and ready to begin student teaching, give yourself a round of applause.”

Dean of the Division of Education, Dr. Richard Gochnauer also addressed the crowd saying teaching is probably one of the toughest professions around, but it is also one of the most rewarding. He wished the students all the best in their new roles as student teachers.

Sylvia Brooks then introduced Kimberly Oliver Burnim, the 2006-2007 National Teacher of the Year. Out of 49 other teachers across the country, a nationwide committee selected Oliver Burnim to become National Teacher of the Year, and she was then honored at a ceremony held at the White House by President George W. Bush.

Kimberly Oliver Burnim took the stage saying she was happy to be there and be part of the excitement of starting student teaching. “They asked that I tell you something about my experiences that will help you in your student teaching and as I was trying to figure out what I would share with you today out of the many experiences I’ve had of my nine years of teaching, I thought about my very first day of teaching. And I decided to share that story with you today.”

Mrs. Oliver Burnim then shared the story of her first day at Broad Acres Elementary as a Kindergarten teacher. After completing her undergraduate degree in English from Hampton University, and her Master of Education degree from Wilmington University in 2000, Oliver Burnim was finally ready to start her teaching career. As the first day approached she had decorated her classroom, got all her lesson plans and greeted each individual parent and child at the door. But as the door closed behind those parents on the very first day, Kimberly Oliver Burnim had no idea what was about to happen. “I had a class of 15 kindergarten students and the moment I closed that door about four of them started crying. And I didn’t have that in my lesson plans.”

She tried to calm the situation but one of the criers soon became a runner, trying to escape the confines of the classroom. “It’s okay I can deal with this, I’ve had 6 years of training,” Said Oliver Burnim, “but I couldn’t deal with it. So after a few moments I realized I was going to have to push that button on the wall. And I really didn’t want to push the button, not on my very first day at school.” Once the button was pushed the situation was cleared up and the principal and the guidance counselor came down to her classroom to help. Kimberly Oliver Burnim sat there and wondered if this was really the right profession for her. But then she realized that she could do this, she just had to take it one step at a time.

Kimberly Oliver Burnim explained to the student teachers there are a few things to note about teaching. The first is that it is probably one of the most difficult professions out there, but it is also very rewarding. The second is to keep learning. “You have to make sure you are up to the challenge of teaching,” said Oliver Burnim, “and your learning should not stop here, you have to take classes and continue learning and growing if you are going to stay one step ahead of the kids you teach.”

Thirdly, Oliver Burnim says to build a relationship with your students, their parents, and with your colleagues. “I don’t think you can be a successful teacher if you don’t know how to establish those relationships. If you don’t know your students and what makes them tick, then you won’t be reaching out to all your students.” Finally, she says to have expectations for your students. “When I started at Broad Acres Elementary it was one of the lowest performing schools in Montgomery County and it was one of the schools designated for reconstitution. So when we met as a faculty and staff to see what we were going to do, the first thing we talked about was expectations. I think it’s important to know and believe that all students can learn and achieve if we give them the time and resources, and know that we can’t give up on them.”

Kimberly Oliver Burnim continues to stay committed to making a difference in the lives of at risk children. She is now a first grade teacher at Broad Acres Elementary in Montgomery County Public Schools, the school she helped salvage.

Student teachers in Wilmington University’s graduate and undergraduate Education programs are set to begin teaching in the fall. They will be assigned a student teacher supervisor and are placed in classrooms from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade.

To find out more about Wilmington University’s Education program click here.

Fore more pictures from this event click here.

Published: Thursday, August 7, 2008 - New Castle, DE