Unaka High School teacher reflects on 14 years of teaching

Published 8:47 am Friday, February 7, 2020



For 14 years Theresa Riley Burton has been an educator in Carter County.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

According to Burton her teaching desire actually began with majoring in social work in college.

“When I went to college I majored in social work, but then I realized that I wanted a career that would be proactive rather than reactive,” she said. “After I realized this I wondered what I could teach. I wanted to teach something that could make a difference so that hopefully families would not be in so much pain and children would not be neglected or abused.”

Burton decided on being a human services teacher, which has had several names over the years like home economics.

Burton began teaching at Unaka High School in January 2006 after her husband, a pastor, received a job offer in Kingsport, and her family moved to the region. She saw the position posted online and went in for an interview where she ended up with the job.

“I came by and toured the school, and fell in love with Stoney Creek and the student population,” she said.

Burton now teaches an introductory class to human services, personal finance, a group of classes focused on students who want to pursue work in fields like social work or teaching, as well as a practicum internship class. In her practicum class, students focused in teaching, for instance, are able to go work alongside teachers in elementary schools as an intern to gain experience. According to Burton, some of her former students who became teachers are actually among those that her current students work with.

In addition to the courses she teaches, she is also involved in after school work with projects like sewing, which according to Burton have been in the Appalachian Fair. She is also over Unaka’s Family, Career and Community Leaders of America, or FCCLA, organization. This group works in community service and develops multiple skills for leadership roles. The topic for this year is domestic violence, something Burton notes is close to her heart. FCCLA week is next week, and her students will be participating in various events each day for it, along with a lunch where this year‘s topic will be the focus.

Burton said her goal as a teacher has always been endless learning and making a difference. She is fond of keeping in touch with students well after they graduate, often attending weddings or meeting the babies of her former students.

“I love social media for keeping in touch,” she said. “I have a board in my class for faces of the past where former students send me messages.”

Burton uses her memory board as a way to show her current students that former students still use, and thank her, for much of the course material that may seem tedious or irrelevant now.

According to Burton, she loves what she does and believes teaching is a great path.

“I think education is a great career path. I know you can make more money at other careers, but they wouldn’t be there if it weren’t for educators,” she said.