Career Commitment

Educator Zita Burton retires with a legacy of excellence in the classroom

Educator Zita Burton in front of Kresge library at Oakland University

Oakland University graduate Zita Burton retired this year after a decades-long career as an educator.

Proud Pioneer

icon of a calendarNovember 16, 2017

icon of a pencilBy Patti Georgevich

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Three principles have steadily guided Zita Burton’s more than 40 years in the classroom: “Strive for my personal best, be kind of heart and never lose my sense of humor,” she explains. The rest is about getting your hands dirty.

“During my field study, I knew teaching was for me. Oakland University’s philosophy of hands-on learning is a hallmark of its elementary education degree program.”

Burton began teaching at Havel Elementary School in Sterling Heights after graduating from the School of Education and Human Services in 1977. Over a career dedicated to enriching the lives of her students through education, she’s become a fixture in the Macomb County community. This year, she retired and received the 2017 Utica Community Schools Teacher of the Year award in recognition of her work.

“Zita has a tireless energy and is committed to her students and their success,” said Christine Johns, Ed.D., superintendent of Utica Community Schools, during an award ceremony at the Community Education Center in Sterling Heights.

In addition to the award, Burton received the keys to a new black Mustang with a free two-year lease, courtesy of Suburban Ford.

“When you think of someone who makes a difference and is a champion for children, you think of Zita,” says principal of Havel Elementary, Kristina Barel, who nominated Burton for the award in the elementary teaching category. “Her compassion, patience and faith in her students reflects who she is.” It also reflects her learning experience at OU, explains Burton.

"Oakland influenced me throughout out my teaching career. Best practices guided the curriculum and became my classroom techniques,” she says. “I recall being in Professor Murphy’s and Professor Stamps’ classes and felt their passion for teaching. I knew I wanted to share that same enthusiasm with elementary school children.”

A video featuring Burton’s current and past students played during her award ceremony. And in accepting her award, Burton had this advice for future elementary school teachers: “Always create an atmosphere in your classroom where children feel comfortable talking and sharing. You’ll face challenges — and it’s alright to make mistakes.”

Making mistakes is a crucial part of learning and teaching, she says.

This article originally appeared in the fall 2017 issue of the Macomb Focus. 

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