Kamisha Burlingame is always on the hunt for ways to engage her fourth graders at Thomas Jefferson Elementary in Bentonville, Arkansas. Students can’t wait to get to school to see how she has transformed their classroom. One day it’s an airplane, with Burlingame in full pilot’s uniform, so students can work on reading responses from the clouds. Sometimes the classroom turns into a football field, or a meadow strewn with picnic blankets for a “book tasting.” At the end of a unit on biographies, students picked a person to research, dressed as their subjects, and shared presentations with visitors who toured the classroom “gallery.” Burlingame’s students benefit from her cutting-edge, innovative practices, with lessons focused on collaboration, independent thinking, creativity and technology. Her goal: developing a classroom of learners who think beyond the assignment in front of them and leave the fourth grade as skilled problem-solvers.
Relationships with her students top Burlingame’s priority list. She gets to know their likes and dislikes, strengths and weaknesses, always taking time to make sure they feel loved and respected. During virtual learning due to the pandemic, Burlingame visited each student’s house just to see their faces and say hello from a safe distance. When students finished the books they were reading, Burlingame delivered fresh volumes to their front doors. She keeps parents up-to-date on classroom activities and their children’s progress with regular, proactive communication. Burlingame’s excitement for school and learning sparks the same in others and inspires all around her. It shows in student outcomes: MAP assessment scores have increased steadily under her instruction, and students show gains each year on ACT summative assessments in literacy, math and science.
Burlingame goes the extra mile to make sure students are set up for success. She has received grants from Walmart and Code.org for science supplies and computers. Burlingame serves on the school’s Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) committee and sponsors the student council. An avid mountain biker, she helped start Jefferson’s bike club and often hits the trails with groups of students after school. In 2018, Burlingame attended The Ron Clark Academy, which trains teachers in creative engagement strategies—many of which have made their way into her classroom.
Burlingame earned a bachelor’s in early childhood education from the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith in 2014 and a master’s in advanced teaching and learning from Harding University in 2018. She holds National Board Certification in K-6 literacy.
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