The Maine Association of Family and Consumer Sciences has chosen Susan Burwell, a teacher at Camden-Rockport Middle School, in Camden, as its Teacher of the Year for 2019.
Sue Burwell graduated with her B.S, and M.Ed. degrees from Penn State University in home economics (now called Family and Consumer Sciences).
She is finishing her 20th year teaching at Camden-Rockport Middle School, after having taught at schools in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and in Massachussetts for several years. A calling from the heart explains the time, energy, and sacrifice she has shared with others to help them learn, believe in themselves and to become productive members of society.
Burwell teaches approximately 400 students in grades 5 through 8 as every student at CRMS school has FCS for 1 quarter/year.
Sue has always been interested in both interdisciplinary projects and community integration. Her first efforts towards interdisciplinary work at CRMS was coordinating the FCS curriculum with S.S. Civil War studies, where students learned about food, camp life of soldiers and made hard tack in foods lab; fifth grade students made a variety of Colonial foods in FCS while studying that time period in their social studies classes. Interdisciplinary efforts have continued and have become a way of life at CRMS.
Two of Sue’s colleagues, Kristen Andersen and Mary Wells, described some of Sue’s creative and relevant initiatives. “Sue has spearheaded a project inspired by the Boomerang Bag initiative, which is a grassroots, global movement to offer a sustainable solution to plastic bag waste. Students sew fabric tote bags in FCS for display at our local grocery store, to be used and returned by customers who forget their own reusable bags.
“All of the seventh grade content areas will play a role in this project, from collecting data about plastic waste in math and science, to learning about the global impact of plastic waste in social studies, to creating persuasive and informative graphics for the bags in language arts.
“To convince others to collaborate with you on such a dynamic project is a sign of a true leader!” Her students will visit the transfer station, investigate possible recycling options for their new middle school building, clean up the nearby river, learn about excessive packaging and make beeswax wraps, collect water samples to test for plastics, and, make ‘travel utensil bags for elementary students who currently use plastic utensils that are thrown away every day.”
Kristen and Mary described another collaborative project: “Sue thought up, planned, organized, and spearheaded our sixth grade fall PBL project called Connecting Over Food. Through this project, students picked an important recipe to them and/or their families, learned how to properly write out the recipe while also creating a short personal narrative to tell the story behind their dish.
“The project culminated with a grade-wide potluck where students brought in their dishes to share with their peers, along with their stories that they read aloud in small groups.” At the morning potluck, they invited a local food pantry representative to speak to the students about hunger in their area.”
According to Sue’s colleagues: “In eighth grade, Sue leads our work on Career Day and Multiple Intelligences, connecting students' strengths to potential future work/job/ career options. Students explore their own authentic learning preferences and consider jobs in which those might be used. She also makes strong connections to our community by inviting over 25 community members to share their wealth of experiences in their job with our students based on the students’ possible career aspirations.”
Burwell has developed grade level events in the style of Alton Brown called The Secret Life of Brownies.
Based on the classic brownie, students circled through math, social studies, language arts and science that all had lessons about brownies based on their content area. The project ended with students baking brownies to give to the local Meals on Wheels program during the holidays.
Burwell is a leader at CRMS for use of the flipped classroom model. She has developed videos called "Ms. B's Basics" that walk kids through directions step by step with visual demonstrations. Students become more independent and go through projects at their own pace.
Burwell’s students interact with and support the community as her seventh graders learn about young children and then plan and run appropriate activities at a nearby preschool. Her 8th grade students have raised and donated hundreds of dollars for non-profits through their student-run business project, which is a part of the Career Education unit in FCS.
She is always ready to help whether it is assisting administration with scheduling solutions, to developing curriculum. She is on the Leadership Committee and is the Cultural Arts team leader. She has been the Exploratory Arts department chair for 19 years.
Recently, the Maine Association of Family and Consumer Sciences elected Burwell to become a member of the Executive Board. She is a leader in the collaboration between MeAFCS and Maine Cooperative Extension.
CRMS Principal Jaime Stone, said: “Sue Burwell is a creative teacher who is consistently trying new strategies with her students. She has been a leader in helping us implement project based learning across the school over the past three years.
“Sue seeks out feedback from her colleagues, partners with other teachers on projects, and helps support our students in some of their most important life skills of cooking, sewing, child care, career exploration, and more! We're very fortunate to have Sue as part of our Crew at CRMS. She is so deserving of this award! “