She also entered with a goal in mind, a goal she had wanted to achieve for a long time.
Tamara wanted to work with special education kids, a job that would call for patience, extreme people skills, knowledge of subject matter, love of children, confidence of approach and an ability to act as liaison between student and parent and fellow teachers.
Not only has she has made it, but she has done so with such success that The Calhoun Council for a Literate Community, along with the adult learning department at Georgia Northwestern Technical College, has selected her as this year’s GEDD Award winner. This has earned her a place on the GED Wall of Honor, with official ceremonies to take place at GNTC’s King Auditorium, Tuesday May 17, at 11 a.m. Mannington Carpets once again will sponsor the event.
“It’s an honor; I’m thrilled,” Burchett said. “But to teach special ed children … well, it was something I always wanted to do. Now, being selected for the GED Wall of Honor, is like icing on the cake.”
Burchett obtained her GED certificate in June of 2005, building confidence and a sense of belonging as she went, becoming so proficient and aggressive with answers she was once humorously admonished by instructor Coleen Brooks: “Be quiet, Tamara; let somebody else answer once in a while.” Tamara laughs at the memory. “I’ll never forget that day,” she said. “I knew I had turned the corner.”
Her GED certificate in hand, she went immediately to work as a para-professional at Calhoun High School to achieve her long-sought goal. But there was a long way to go as Burchett began a career journey that would have unexpected emotional highs and lows. But she approached her job with great purpose and tenacity.
“But there were days . . . “ she said, her voice trailing off.
At fretful moments, working with, say, a student afflicted with Cerebral Palsy, she would say to a fellow teacher, “I can’t do this.”
The advice usually was, “Give it time, Tamara. Just give it time.”
Then came her first “Aha!” moment.
“A student laughed,” she said. “He laughed out loud.”
Tamara works with “profound” special education students, including children who have Cerebral Palsy, Rhett’s Syndrome and other near-debilitating ailments.
A laugh, a smile, a positive reaction makes her day. That is when she knows she has reached a student. That is when the realization hits that she has chosen the right job, that her goal was worth the wait, that her decision in 2005, when she already was in her mid-30s, to earn a GED certificate, was the correct one.
Most of all, Tamara Burchett knows she is making a difference, which is a big part of the acronym GEDD: G - goal; E - excellence; D - determination and D - (making a) difference, for which the award is named.
Burchett is the eighth honoree of The GEDD Award and a place on the GED Wall of Honor, which was established in 2004. Previous winners are: Registered Nurse Jeremy Carlson, 2004; radio personality Kevin Casey, 2005; law enforcement official William Daniel, 2006; cosmetologist Judy Housley, 2007; citizen volunteer John Russell, 2008; Calhoun Housing Project employee Clinton Marshall, 2009; and Sgt. Justin Baumgardner, 2010.