Round Rock ISD named Valerie Burleigh the 2018 Secondary Teacher of the Year at the District’s annual banquet Monday evening, sponsored by the Round Rock ISD Partners in Education Foundation and A+ Federal Credit Union.

Burleigh, a language arts teacher, was named the Teacher of the Year at Success High School and was selected among 19 secondary educators to represent the District at the state competition. Burleigh has been an educator for 15 years, three of which have been at Success.

Burleigh’s underlying philosophy for teaching is based on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which states that individuals need their physiological and psychological needs met before they’re able to embrace self-actualization. To accomplish that mission, Burleigh provides snacks for all her classes to ensure students aren’t hungry, brings blankets to class so students will feel safe and creates personal connections with each student to create a sense of belonging.

“Being purposeful and creating an environment that meets students where they are has been a major focus of my teaching career,” Burleigh said. “I believe that students cannot learn in a state of chaos or fear and that classrooms must be safe havens starting with meeting physiological needs in order to help students move forward and become self-actualized thinkers.”

Burleigh was first inspired to further her education when she was in middle school. A coach was the first person to ever tell Burleigh that she was smart and should go to college and she eventually became the first in her family to earn a postsecondary degree. Her background and passion for education have influenced both students and staff at Success, said Principal Thomasine Stewart.

“Valerie is a teacher who teaches from her heart, and truly means it when she says ‘my kids,’” Stewart said. “She makes every effort to help students learn, understand, and write essays and her classroom is a safe haven for a lot of our students because it is warm and welcoming.”

Burleigh will continue on to the 2018 Region 13 Secondary Teacher of the Year competition where she will represent Round Rock ISD in hopes of becoming the 2018 Texas Secondary Teacher of the Year.

“We are honored and proud to have Valerie Burleigh as our 2018 Secondary Teacher of the Year,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Steve Flores said. “Ms. Burleigh is a dedicated educator who is committed to the needs of all students and I am confident that she will represent our District well at the state competition.”