By Tim Ashley
WARSAW — When growing up, David Burden said he “had a small scope of what I thought I could pursue as a career.” Public education in the 1990s had a different look to it.
At that time, a student may not have been as likely to have someone showing them careers and fields they could have a passion for. But as a STEM instructional coach at Washington STEM Academy and Madison Elementary in Warsaw, Burden is able to do that and more.
“I enjoy opening up the world of possibilities to students as they are figuring out what they have interests and passions in,” he said. “I love presenting and providing space for students to see themselves in a future career so they can experiment and find their unique talents and skills. When a student finds something that they connect with and enjoy, it gives purpose and sets them up to achieve a dream that is real and attainable.
“I love every moment I get to be a catalyst for that.”
Before graduating from Van Wert High School in Ohio in 2004, Burden’s family moved around quite a bit and he lived in several locations in Ohio, including the Columbus area and Cincinnati, before moving to Van Wert. He later graduated from Indiana Wesleyan University in 2008 and that is where he met his wife to be, Valerie, a 2004 graduate of Warsaw Community High School.
Although some people grow up in a family of educators or discover early on they have a passion to teach, such was not the case with Burden. He did not originally plan on pursuing education as a career.
“I wasn’t a perfect student and I really did not enjoy school very much,” he recalled.
Upon deciding education would be his career, he chose to do things differently. “I wanted to make the classroom different from how I experienced school,” he said. “I wanted school to be engaging, fun, exciting and a place that you didn’t want to miss out on.”
From the time he started in education and even now, he looks at every lesson and day he teaches from the perspective of would he want to be in that classroom. “If I had to sit in my own classroom, would I want to be there? Would I learn anything, enjoy school and have a good experience? If I can honestly say ‘yes’ to my own question, then I believe I am teaching in a way that reaches students and makes learning memorable.”
David and Valerie moved to North Carolina after college and lived there until 2013 when they decided after their first son was born to move back to where family is located.
As a STEM instructional coach, Burden models and teaches teachers how to engage students in a learning environment where opportunities are “real, relevant, and expose students to problems and solutions that will prepare them for life after graduation.”
He explained when learning is applied and skills are transferred to different challenges, “the learning stays with you and it becomes meaningful to the student.”
Clearly, Burden has developed a passion for educating, and it is also clear he and other teachers do face certain challenges. He noted the way student achievement is measured in many ways by standardized test scores and performance, but a test score does not reflect in whole what a student can do or achieve.
But he believes STEM education and the disciplines a child learns through those experiences equips them with much needed skills that will set them up to be successful in life. For examples, the ability to problem solve, persevere to the end, collaborate with others and continually pursuing learning to improve.
Schools have been shut down since March and will remain closed through the end of the school year. Extended eLearning has created difficulties for families, teachers and students. No one was really prepared for this long haul of learning at home.
Burden has dealt with it as a teacher and a father and said his role of working alongside teachers has been difficult because teachers are focusing more on adjusting to their new setting. He is still trying to support teachers with new ways to teach and has seen everyone rising to the challenge.
In addition to teaching, which he considers a hobby, too, Burden enjoys playing and learning new board games, gardening and building LEGO ideas from scratch.
David and Valerie have three children: Ezra, 7; Josiah, 5; and Elliana, 2. The family attends Pleasant View Bible Church.