Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Top Teacher Finalist Opens Young Minds with Mutual Respect

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Top Teacher Finalist Opens Young Minds with Mutual Respect

Article excerpt

Byline: HEATHER LOVEJOY

Reciprocal respect.

That's a phrase fifth-grade teacher David Burrell uses often and with conviction. It's how he best describes the give-and-you-shall-receive policy by which he lives.

It seems to be working.

He has quickly earned high regard not just in the classroom, but also in the professional realm.

After three years at Central Riverside Elementary School, the 32-year-old was picked by colleagues as the school's Teacher of the Year. Chosen from 160 individual school winners, Burrell, of the Avondale area, is now one of six finalists in the running to be Duval County's Teacher of the Year.

The winner will be announced Thursday, April 10, during the EDDY Awards ceremony at the Prime Osborn Convention Center.

Burrell said his approach to classroom management is simple: courtesy and appropriate behavior are essential, and it starts with him.

"I give [the students] respect and they provide it back to me," he said.

"I abide by the same rules that they abide by. How can I tell them to abide by something when I don't?"

Reciprocal respect helps build relationships, he said.

In turn, strong relationships command trust and openness, creating an ideal environment for learning, he added.

Burrell hopes to soon be able to affect the lives of more children by becoming an assistant principal or principal.

Before the next school year, he'll receive his master's degree in education leadership from Jacksonville University and will have the required certification.

"I want to be the person who empowers other teachers," he said. "I want to be the person who is seen and knows every kid and every kid knows me."

Prior to joining the team at Central Riverside, Burrell taught for one year in Tampa, four years in town at North Shore Elementary School, and one in Alaska (the coldest day he braved was 66 below zero).

Wait - from balmy Florida to icy Alaska and back?

One might say he has a spontaneous streak. …

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