Joseph Burton

North Point High School math teacher Joseph Burton has been nominated for the 2022-23 National LifeChanger of the Year award. Sponsored by the National Life Group Foundation, LifeChanger of the Year recognizes and rewards the best K-12 educators and school district employees across the United States who make a difference in students’ lives by exemplifying excellence, positive influence, and positive influence and leadership. 

Burton was nominated by his colleague, Holly Dolan. He is known for his desire to make North Point an exceptional, inclusive place to learn and his unwavering dedication to being the best teacher he can be.

When students meet Mr. Burton, they know they are in a welcoming and supportive class. They may not immediately realize how much planning and intentionality they are walking into. Mr. Burton is known for his desire to make North Point an exceptional, inclusive place to learn and his unwavering dedication to being the best teacher he can be.

As the faculty advisor for the North Point High School Academic Eagles, a student steering committee, Mr. Burton works closely with a group of students to promote school pride and ensure that everyone feels welcome when they step into the building. In a school of over 1800 students and 200+ staff members, it would be easy for people to feel like just another face in the crowd. Mr. Burton wasn’t willing to let that happen. In his mind, each person is deserving of individual recognition and celebration.

One of the larger projects the Academic Eagles facilitates is the creation of monthly murals on school walls that highlight the names of all students and staff who have birthdays each month. Each person receives a birthday treat recognizing them and their special day, and their place within the larger community is underscored. The Academic Eagles continued this longstanding tradition even throughout the school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“To help students feel connected to school, Mr. Burton initiated a birthday card mailer program that told students that we were thinking of them and wishing them the best despite our distance,” said Dolan. “It is often said that greatness comes from small works of the heart. Mr. Burton consistently aims to remind staff and students that they are the heart of our school, and these small gestures have cultivated enormous school pride and community.”

Mr. Burton devotes enormous time and energy to supporting the larger school community. However, he still finds the zest to create a math classroom that engages all his learners and aims to provide them with more than day-to-day math skills.

Moved to create a space that supports life-long learning, Mr. Burton spent the summer of 2022 reimagining his room to be a thinking space. With the guidance of the text, Building Thinking Classrooms in Mathematics, Grades K-12: 14 Practices to Enhancing Learning by Peter Liljedahl, Mr. Burton transformed his classes, everything from Algebra I to Advanced Placement Calculus, into spaces where students were not only expected to compute but engage in collaborative inquiry to construct meaning out of their learning. This space of thinking routines projects students out of the traditional math silo of simply solving math problems into a realm of discussing and analyzing methods. It encourages them to consider the variance that choice creates. In establishing a classroom with this mindset, Mr. Burton has shifted the focus of learning from “the right” answer to an enlightened framework of thinking.

“Most teachers are ‘good’ at some parts of their jobs, but Joe Burton is great at everything,” said Dolan. “He spends his summers immersed in pedagogical research and devising lessons that will help his students grow as learners and humans, and the results are undeniable. Mr. Burton is the teacher everyone hopes their child has. North Point High School is blessed to call him ours.”

David M. Higgins II, Publisher/EditorEditor-in-Chief

David M. Higgins II is an award-winning journalist passionate about uncovering the truth and telling compelling stories. Born in Baltimore and raised in Southern Maryland, he has lived in several East...

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