BRADEN RIVER — As Braden River High School Technology Teacher Gil Burlew makes his way through his classroom, he shows off his students’ work, pointing to custom-made coasters, hope chests, clocks, mirrors and other products his students will eventually sell to raise money for the program.
Burlew, called “Mr. B” by his students, pauses to assist two students, who are staring at a computer.
“What are you going to learn today?” he asks, before assigning them a project.
Burlew, state chairman of the Technology Student Association and the technology education department head at Braden River, knows how to push students.
“I don’t see myself as a very smart teacher, but I motivate kids,” Burlew said. “I help them (see their potential).”
And on April 2, that skill set earned international accolades, when the Technology Education and Engineering Educators Association awarded him the Teacher Excellence Award during its 76th annual conference, held in Orlando.
An educator in Dade County nominated Burlew for the award.
“An honor like this — it’s not really what you do as a teacher; it’s what your kids do,” Burlew said. “I have great teachers. I’m humbled I was the one selected, but this is shared with my fellow teachers — David Sheppard, John Frank and Bill Farrell. It doesn’t just happen.”
Braden River High School’s Technology Student Association team has captured national championship titles the last three of four years.
This year, Manatee County high schools took home first-, second- and third-place finishes in the national competition. Haile Middle School won the middle school division nationally.
Burlew, who came to Manatee County to teach nine years ago, had his heart set on a trip to Mexico for spring break this year, after he spent his previous two spring breaks taking students to compete for the Technology Student Association championship titles.
“I was looking forward to a nice, relaxing spring break,” Burlew said. “I didn’t know I was selected.”
But, when colleague after colleague inquired about his attending the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association’s conference in Orlando, Burlew assumed there was a reason he should attend, although he never guessed it was to accept the award.
While at the ITEEA conference, Burlew attended a class to learn how to make remotely operated underwater vehicles, which he now has displayed in his classroom at Braden River. He plans to teach other teachers how to create the technology later this year, so they, in turn, can teach their students. The effort is part of the SeaPerch program, an underwater robotics program that equips teachers and students to build underwater ROVs in in-school or out-of-school settings.
Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].