Johnson Middle School teacher Dr. Maricela Burns, Ed.D. is a prime example that you can accomplish anything you put your mind to. As a Latina, a veteran of war and first-generation recipient of a doctorate degree, Burns represents less than one percent of the US population.
This, along with her distinctions in the military and education, caught the attention of Texas State Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr. After learning her story at her graduation, Senator Lucio honored her accomplishments with a formal proclamation and a state flag flown at the Texas capitol in her honor.
For Burns, receiving this honor allowed her to reflect on the years of hard work and dedication she sacrificed in her passion to help others.
“I didn’t even realize that I had accomplished so much. I just kept going and going, because that’s what I know,” says Burns. “It’s never been about the recognition. My dissertation was about contributing to educational research. I hope it will help serve others along their own journey. That is the ultimate goal.”
As an ESL teacher, Burns does just that. Every day she uses her passion for education and unshakable resiliency to advocate for her students.
“Through the various types of curriculum you can teach students to advocate for themselves, and that’s something I strive to do,” Burns stated. “It doesn’t matter who you are, where you’ve been or what others think of you. Anyone can accomplish their goals, but they must first believe that they can.”
In 2000, Burns joined the US Navy, where she would serve for the next four years. After the 9/11 tragedy, she was part of the country’s first line of defense and completed two deployments on a nuclear craft carrier. During her time in the Navy, she was part of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Following her honorable discharge, Burns returned to Texas and her life as a lifelong learner. With a new sense of determination learned from her time in the military, Burns took on her biggest challenge yet: earning a doctorate.
Five years of intense work, research and reflection later, Burns graduated with her doctorate in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis in educational technology. Her dissertation, an autoethnography delivered as three dynamic soliloquies, examines how the systems of power and privilege specifically affect students in an online classroom environment.
Burns’s research and personal reflection have helped her create an inclusive curriculum for students of all backgrounds. Being a representative of several minority groups herself, Burns is passionate about inspiring students of every gender and race to also be lifelong learners.
“Dr. Burns has the ability to connect and inspire people from many different backgrounds and walks of life to be the best they can be,” says Johnson Middle School’s Principal James Clark. “I know how hard she has worked to earn her doctorate and how much she invests in her students. She has lived a life of service, and I believe her success will have a lasting impact on the students she teaches for years to come.”