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An interview with Elizabeth Burrows

by Kaycee Yarroch

Elizabeth Burrows, an English lecturer here at AUM, spends her days striving to make sure students know just how capable they are. “We write on a daily basis,” she said. “We are constantly writing on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and even text messages…Everyone is a writer; don’t ever think you’re not.”

Growing up in New Jersey, Burrows enjoyed horse-back riding, the math-team, and of course, writing. After moving to Alabama, she attended high school in Pelham where she was the editor of the literary magazine for her student body. She then attended Auburn for five years where she earned her Bachelor’s of English and then went on to earn her Master’s of English. After graduating, Burrows moved back to New Jersey where she taught at a community college. However, her job was not the joy that she desired it would be, so when a friend teaching at AUM called about a job opportunity, she jumped at the chance.

Elizabeth Burrows
Elizabeth Burrows

In the fall of 2013, Burrows began her teaching career here at AUM. When asked about her experience with the college, she said that she “feels accomplished and well-supported by the department.” In addition, she discussed her love for the students here. “Students are great and all try really hard.” She said she is constantly impressed with the discipline and work ethic that she sees students portray here at AUM.

In October of 2017, Burrows married her boyfriend of three years. They now live in Pelham where she spent the majority of her high school years. In August of 2018, Burrows was promoted to Assistant Director of Composition. This position is a two-year position located in the Department of English and Philosophy. Burrows has thoroughly enjoyed this new promotion, along with the tasks associated with it. As the Assistant Director of Composition, Burrows’s duties include things such as mentoring new teachers, helping all teachers, and instructing teachers on how best to approach students. Her philosophy when approaching students is simple, and yet still profound: “If we approach the student and the situation with kindness and compassion, everything will be fine.” She understands that students have lives outside of school, and sometimes, they need a little extra understanding or a little extra help. Burrows is an extremely big promoter of kindness, compassion, and understanding. She tries to instill this into all the teachers that enter the Department of English and Philosophy.

When asked about her vision for the department, Burrows discussed her desire to see a connection between the real world and the classroom. She holds that the world can sometimes be a very anti-intellectual place – a place that is almost against learning and advanced degrees. She wants the world to be much more accepting of college education. Connecting real world experiences with student life is one way that Burrows keeps her students minds active during class. One of her favorite things to do is to connect class assignments or examples with popular entertainment. As she put it, “Entertainment is such a huge thing in our culture, so why would I try to fight it when it can help students engage in learning?”

For Burrows, the most rewarding part of being a teacher is being able to see students overcome boundaries. She said students come to her class carrying so many invisible burdens and huge boundaries they have built before them. Many may feel as if they are not smart enough, or not a good enough writer for the class or the teacher’s standards. Burrows works tirelessly to help students understand just how smart they actually are, and just how capable their writing actually is. “Everybody is a great writer and student. We just need you to feel confident in yourselves.” On the other hand, Burrows said one of the hardest parts about being a teacher is when students fail to attend class. She feels as is her students are her responsibility and truly worries about their well-being when they fail to come to class or turn in assignments. “I worry about them. I don’t have children, but I see my students as family.” She wants her students to come to her if they are facing a problem. She feels helpless when her students are struggling and do not seek help or understanding from her. “I cannot help them through the problem if they never come to me.”

If Burrows could give one piece of advice to students, she would tell them what one of her teachers at Auburn University, John Penick, constantly engrained into her: “When you’re in a room, be in that room.” Burrows believes this rings true for all students in all situations. She said she wants students to give her a little portion of undistracted time each week. “I know that you have a lot going on, but I am only asking for an hour and fifteen minutes of your time. Life will be waiting for you when you leave. I only want an hour and fifteen minutes. When you’re in my room, please be present in that room.” Burrows said she doesn’t believe multi-tasking is a real thing. So many students claim to be multi-tasking, but in fact are just giving very little attention to multiple things – something that will never lead to success. She pleads with her students for their full attention; she knows their grades will be immensely better if they follow this very simple rule.

Burrows strives to be a teachers who leaves a lasting impact on her students’ lives. She approaches every day with kindness and compassion and does everything in her power to help her students succeed not only in her class, but in their other classes and life after graduation. If you are considering a career or a degree in English or writing, Burrows encourages you to take a class. “Even if you do not love the class, it will only help you in any major you choose. Being a good writer is a skill that will never go to waste, no matter the career path you choose.”

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