Thankfully, there are people like Erin Burns out there.
Impact is a funny thing, sometimes. There’s all sorts of good a person can do in this world. All sorts of callings, paths, careers. And sometimes it’s tough to choose which road to take.
For Erin, all signs pointed to being a doctor, but that changed during her time in the Teaching Fellows Program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. “Pretty quickly it became clear that I was supposed to be an educator,” she said. “I saw how far a teacher’s influence could go. I can only be one doctor, but as a teacher I can inspire a whole generation of new doctors.”
On the difficulties of the education environment: “I know what’s happening in education right now doesn’t work. I feel it firsthand every day. So to be successful, you’ve got to get creative. You’ve got to play by the rules, but the most important thing is connecting with your students.”
She’s taken her classroom into her own hands, as she does with most things in her life. When a NC teacher’s salary wasn’t enough to pay her bills, Erin went out and got her real estate license. She uses real estate to “get my fix of running a business” and to make enough money to travel. When her students weren’t buying in, she learned how to be a “salesperson” and make things relevant for them. And when she realized that there weren’t any programs out there to help mentor high school students, well, she went and started one.
Sidekicks Mentoring is a program that connects high school students with young professionals with monthly service and social events. You’ve got to see the types of programs they put on, too –craft nights at Charlotte Family Housing, service trips to Beds for Kids, cooking and passing out hot dogs to Charlotte’s homeless on cold nights, business etiquette dinners, kickball in the park. The impact is real, and people are taking notice. Erin has won several awards for her work in and passion for education in the Charlotte area – Young Professional Educator Finalist, Top 30 Business Leaders Under 30, etc. But, naturally, I had to go digging for those, because for Erin it’s all about the kids. “I think my students trust me and want to learn from me because they know that they’re the only reason I’m teaching,” she said. “My whole heart is in this.”
Erin smiles when she remembers a lesson she learned from her mom. “She always told me there’s more than one way of doing things,” she said. “If the road’s not there, go build a new road.”
You can find out more about Sidekicks Mentoring here. Maybe you'll donate, maybe you'll learn, maybe you'll be inspired.
*Finally, a special thank you to Erin and all of the educators out there whose passion is to teach and inspire. Your impact is immeasurable.