Improving the community and leaving the world better than they found it is what Teacher Fellows, Burgess Jeffries, and Justin Sanders exemplify in their classrooms daily. Both Burgess and Justin are teachers in the Birmingham City School (BCS) district. The district that is thriving in many ways than none. This year Birmingham City Schools are 1:1 with iPads and Chromebooks while providing 8500 hotspots for students to access wifi, and Alabama was voted Top Seven Most Exceptional states with making digital content and instructional materials available outside of the classroom. Although the school year will look different from the norm, Ed Farm is excited about the many possibilities of the school year and amazed by Burgess’s commitment, assuredness, and excitement to teach students that math, too, can be fun. We reached out to Burgess to learn more about being preeminent in their class.
“There is always talk about what is lacking in our school systems, and there is no better way than to have a presence at these schools. Standing on the sidelines and criticizing does nothing.”
Burgess is a native of Memphis, TN, and a product of the Memphis City School system. He graduated from Tuskegee University, majoring in Mathematics (2003), Miles College, Secondary Education (2008), and the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), Masters in Ed Leadership (2017). While growing up in the south and graduating from a public city school, when he started teaching, he didn’t listen to the naysayers and found himself teaching math in BCS. “There is always talk about what is lacking in our school systems, and there is no better way than to have a presence at these schools. Standing on the sidelines and criticizing does nothing.” Currently, Burgess teaches Senior Pre-Calculus at Woodlawn High School and will be starting his first “Everyone Can Code” club with support from Ed Farm. Burgess believes “it is important to interact within the community you live in. I’ll always teach in the community I live in or am the closest to, my students deserve that” And that he does!
Although math was not the first choice for Burgess, instead, computer science, he knew he wanted to make math a career. “The exciting thing about math is its functionality across so many areas in society. Many people don’t realize how transferrable math skills are, because you are training the mind to think logically to arrive at a solution.” These skills later led him to use technology in the classroom. “I use all sorts of software to demonstrate visuals and math concepts that I didn’t have available when I was in school. A still image cannot capture things like projectiles, gravity, and change of direction. I use software to get things moving so that the pages of text have more life.” As math is complicated, Burgess creates videos using iMovie and Clips, along with other video creation software, to provide engaging demonstrations online to make concepts more relatable and easy to comprehend for his students. His favorite saying in the classroom to motivate students is, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”
“Intelligence plus character – that is the true goal of education” – Martin Luther King
Always looking to develop professionally, Burgess found himself at Ed Farm, February 2020, on a Birmingham City Schools Professional Development day. While brought to his attention by a coworker who knew he was a tech-savvy math teacher, he found himself at Ed Farm every day after that to work on his presentation skills. Such diligence! That steadfast spirit landed him a spot as a Teacher Fellow, where he was “reintroduced to coding again after years of being away from it.” Although not new to coding, Burgess mentioned, “learning a new coding language is challenging. I have to master speaking a language the computer understands so that it can follow my commands the way I design the code to do.” Burgess is currently in the process of learning more about the Everyone Can Code curriculum and Swift language to begin implementing in his classroom the upcoming school year.
As a new Teacher Fellow and connected educator, social media has played a considerable role in how Burgess showcases how math surrounds us. He feels “social media is crucial; anyone who doesn’t agree should pay attention to how social media has made its way into so many areas.” Even more, he stays relevant by using social media platforms to engage his audience. He mentioned, “Using social media and mathematics has worked wonders for me. My YouTube channel has over 400 subscribers, and it is probably helping someone I may or may not know at this moment. Not only that, but the internet is also 24/7 and global. The only limit to the internet is that everyone isn’t fortunate enough to have access.”
While math has several branches, Burgess uses creative teaching strategies to create learning experiences, no matter the topic. “I like to use videos and photography to create lessons in math. If I don’t have either of those as my medium, I’ll use software to either handwrite/sketch or use graphing software.” He let us in on his favorite creative technique to learn math, augmented reality. He states that viewing math in three dimensions helps his students grasp the subject matter and also helps to engage students and get them pumped about learning deeply. He currently has 100+ videos uploaded across different grade levels and topics. Here is to 100 more!
Burgess left our conversation with advice to teachers in this virtual learning era, “technology is a tool. It is our job to learn and to teach. If we take the stance that technology is a crutch, we are doing our students a disservice. Model the use of technology in everything you can until they begin to see the advantages.”
We look forward to Burgess’s continued service in his community, through technology and in math. And with this, we are in the presence of a Math King! Continue to shed light on those around you.
If you’d like to learn more about Teacher Fellows, visit our program website.
Brittany Hollis, Manager of Marketing: September 3, 2020