Burley Teaches Life Lessons Through Mathematics

Deldrick Burley headshot
Photo courtesy Cedar Hill ISD

Changing Students Trajectory for Generations In The Classroom

(CEDAR HILL, TEXAS) Deldrick Burley’s job description at Permenter Middle School says “Mathematics Department Head” and “Sixth Grade Mathematics Teacher.”

His scholars are mastering numbers and equations, but Burley is imparting life lessons on his scholars as well.

“Two things we don’t say in class are ‘I can’t’ or ‘I don’t” – unless we put one word at the end of that sentence, and that word is ‘yet’,” Burley said. “ ‘Yet’ is the most powerful word they’ll learn all year because they’ll run into some things they don’t know. They don’t know it yet.”

“You have to think about the kids that you reach and how you change those kids’ mindset and how many people they’ll reach. They’ll reach their peers. You’re changing that person’s trajectory for generations.”

Burley’s success in teaching both mathematics and life lessons is one reason why he’s the 2020-2021 Cedar Hill ISD Secondary Teacher of the Year. He’s the second consecutive Permenter Teacher to earn the honor, following Social Studies Teacher Angel Hale in 2019-2020.

“Mr. Burley is a phenomenal asset to the campus,” Permenter Principal John Ensley said. “He is truly an expert in his field and uses engaging methods to help his scholars understand and experience the joy of learning.”

While others may not have been surprised at the Secondary Teacher of the Year honor, Burley said it was both shocking and humbling.

“It took a minute to sink in, and it was kind of surreal,” Burley said. “I know how hard everybody works and how much work everybody puts in. I love to celebrate others, and I like to do for others. I get just as much out of giving as I do receiving gifts.”

Burley and his wife, Alicia Burley, celebrated 14 years of marriage on Wednesday. They met while they were undergraduates at Stephen F. Austin University in the Piney Woods of Nacogdoches, Texas. They are the proud parents of two sons, ages 8 and 4.

Upon graduation, Alicia accepted a job in Arkansas, and they were in a long distance relationship, yet Burley’s generosity shined through.

“I remember that my first job after graduate school was in Arkansas,” Alicia said. “Deldrick came up to my job and surprised me with gifts for Valentine’s Day. Not only did he do this for me, but he surprised my co-workers with gifts as well. Deldrick’s the guy who pulls over to help you on the side of the road. He’s the guy who silently gives money to address a need. He’s the guy to buy groceries or gas for someone in mind. He’s that guy that will pray with you. He’ the guy who will explain something four different ways to help with comprehension.”

In addition to being a husband, father and teacher, Burley is a man of faith, a singer and a small business owner. He and Arlington resident Jason Bryant operate a catering business called “Good Vibes” which specializes in Jamaican Food with a Texas Twist.

“He’s definitely been a great friend and a great colleague,” Bryant said. “He’s a great motivator and encourager. He’s one of those iron sharpens iron people.”

Although Burley and Bryant collaborate from a culinary perspective, Bryant has taken notice of Burley’s commitment to his scholars.

“I’ve seen him way past hours, up to midnight, 3, 4, or 5 a.m. coming up with new ways to reach the scholars and explain what they’re going through,” Bryant said. “Certain people, when the Pandemic hit, he just elevated. And Deldrick is one of those people.”

Sergeant Major John Edwards, a family friend who taught Burley in his Army JROTC Class at West Mesquite High School, still remembers Burley’s exceptional singing voice and his commitment to his fellow cadets.

“First of all, he was very dependable,” Edwards said. “He’s very intelligent and has a beautiful voice. He is the kind of person you want your child to be like when they grow up. He never gave his mother any trouble at all.”

Teaching was always in the back of Burley’s mind, but he went into the business world, specifically the banking industry in Fort Worth, where he worked long hours.

“I was working too hard and not being fulfilled,” Burley said. “Someone once told me that If you’re going to work hard, make sure at least, it’s something that will be fulfilling.”

Burley decided to go through an Alternative Certification Program. He had several conversations with his younger brother, Brandon Mims, who at 32 years old, is six years younger than Burley.

Mims, who teaches in the Houston area now, is a former Teacher of the Year at two schools in the Dallas area.

“I was excited when Deldrick decided to go into education,” Mims said. “He’s a father figure because my dad wasn’t really around. I am proud of him, and I joke with him that I’m the younger brother, and I have two Teacher of the Year Awards. On a serious note, he treats the scholars just like his own kids. He motivates them and coaches them. He builds relationships with his scholars, and if you don’t do that, you won’t be able to teach them. The scholars who were in his class come back every year to visit him.”

With everything he does, Burley goes “all in” and teaching was no different. He eventually became a Department Head.

“My scholars and my colleagues know that my door is always open,” Burley said. “I host weekly department meetings, and I’m always looking ahead.”

Burley completed his Master’s Degree from Liberty University last year.

“I know what a positive culture looks like, and I feel like I could share that knowledge with a full staff,” Burley said.

Burley has been part of the Assistant Principal Internship Program at Permenter and said he’s learned a great deal from Ensley, especially the campus principal’s “Quiet Resilience.”

“There’s so much that principals do that I never would have known about had I not been able to shadow him and work with him,” Burley said.

Sandra Mims, Burley’s mother, said she’s proud of Burley’s accomplishments, both inside and outside the classroom. There’s one exception though. She’ll never figure out why, despite her best efforts to raise him as a Dallas Cowboys fan, he chose to root for the Denver Broncos instead.