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Dr. Xavia Harrington Burton, PhD

In grade school, in a small, rural community in Orangeburg, South Carolina, Dr. XaviaHarrington Burton first encountered superheroes as a child: her devoted teachers who inspired her and her classmates to aspire to things bigger than their small town offered. Learning from them made Burton want to be an educator and fuel future educators with a zeal to teach vulnerable student populations. In Burton's world, everyone has potential, and everyone has purpose. "My focus has always been marginalized students, first-generation students, students of color, students with diverse abilities, students with language barriers, LGBTQIA+ students, and how teachers can prepare themselves to better serve these diverse students."

Burton started her chosen career path as a high school English and Teaching English to Students of Other Languages (TESOL) teacher, arriving at USI in 2013, by way of Alabama, China and Kentucky. She believes she was predestined to come to USI because of each step she took in her educational career. "I love USI's students," she says. "They are, truly, the reason why I’ve been here as long as I have." That sense of dedication to USI's students and the passion she brings to education are what make her a superhero. 

Your job in China as Lead TESOL Teacher Trainer was spent redesigning curriculums and lessons with students in mind. How did that experience impact your educational perspective and what you impart on your students today?

I was afforded an opportunity to put my passion for multicultural student success, my education and my experiences to the test to help others, and I was able to see some of the barriers that made students' learning so difficult. I use this experience to remind future educators that students’ failures are not always associated with student grit, intelligence or motivation; sometimes—just sometimes—students’ failures are also a result of the failures in properly preparing the teacher to identify and meet diverse students’ needs.

What challenges do educators face, and how do they stay steadfast despite them?

Teaching is still a noble profession. It has its challenges, but it is important that the best educators do not believe the hype that the challenges of teaching far outweigh the benefits of teaching. That’s just not true! Educators of today and tomorrow cannot become disillusioned by the current state of affairs. We must never forget that our work positively impacts students and their immediate families, their larger communities, our nation and our world. In a democratic society, the importance of teaching cannot be abandoned; the importance of teachers cannot be forgotten.

What is your vision for the future of education and teacher education?

I envision a world where future educators are taught the importance of proper planning—and its correlation to quality teaching and learning—encouraged to create more positive learning environments with less, and motivated to think about their work from the students’ perspectives, specifically those from marginalized groups, whose voices, oftentimes, go unheard. What words sum you up? Change agent.

What one book should everyone read, and why?

The Moral Basis of Democracy by Eleanor Roosevelt. The text takes an optimistic look at who we could be and how we could get there through collaborative work and equal respect of all people.

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