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Arzo Burnim Is Loved By Many

Arzo S. Burnim

The featured citizen of Teague this week is Arzo S. Burnim, one of the most loved and admired educators who ever taught in the Teague area. Wherever he goes former students gather around him wanting to tell him how he influenced their lives. They talk about great times and great memories. When watching, you can see his face light up at every person who comes to greet him and it?s obvious that he remembers them all.

When asked why he chose the field of education, Coach Burnim said:

?Having grown up in Nacogdoches, Texas as the son of an independent farmer, I was the first of my five siblings to attend college. I was encouraged by a teacher to attend Prairie View A&M College in Prairie View, Texas, one of the schools now referenced as an HBCU (Historically Black College and University). At that time, teaching was one of the few professions, which welcomed African Americans with college degrees. Teachers were highly respected members of African American communities, and armed with a degree in agriculture, a career in teaching allowed me to fully utilize my college education and make a viable contribution to my community.?

He was asked when he first began his teaching career. He said:

My first teaching job was in Furney Richardson, Texas, where I served as the agriculture teacher from 1947 to 1955. When agriculture was no longer offered at the Furney Richardson School, I was hired at Wortham Public Schools, where I taught from 1956 to 1957. In 1957, I became a member of the faculty at Booker T. Washington High School in Teague. There I taught a variety of subjects from eighth grade math and science to biology. I also served as head basketball coach for the girl?s and boy?s teams and assistant football coach. I also coached track and field. I remained at Booker T. Washington until the Teague ISD integrated in 1966, and I was moved to Teague High School, where I was assigned to teach seventh and eighth grade math and coach junior high basketball.

Arzo Burnim graduated from E.J. Campbell High School in Nacogdoches, Texas in 1942. While he attended Prairie View A&M College he worked in the school laundry and dining hall to cover his expenses. During his studies he took a brief hiatus from school to travel to Los Angeles to work as a longshoreman to earn the money he needed to complete his college degree.

?I finished Prairie View in 1947, the same year that I got married and secured my first job as a teacher at Furney Richardson,? said Mr. Burnim. ?I pursued graduate study in Colorado, and at Stephen F. Austin in Nacogdoches, and completed my Master?s degree at Prairie View A&M in 1966.

He was asked about Mrs. Burnim. He said:

?I have now been married to my wife, Ruby Burnim, for 67 years. She, too, is a graduate of Prairie View, and served as a remedial reading teacher at J.A. Brooks Elementary and as a third grade teacher at Sallie Mounger Elementary. My children are Dr. Mickey Burnim, President of Bowie State University in Bowie, Maryland; Dr. Mellonee Burnim, a professor in the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology at Indiana University-Bloomington, and Wonda Burnim, who has taught in the Dallas Independent Schools for over 20 years. I now have five grandchildren and five great grandchildren.?

Mr. Burnim was asked what he was involved with in the community including hobbies. He said:

?Throughout my teaching career in Teague, I was a member of Titus Chapel United Methodist Church in Furney Richardson, where I served in multiple capacities, including a trustee and Sunday school superintendent. As a hobby, I loved to hunt quail, especially with my friend Dr. Jack Cox; I also hunted dove and squirrel. I was known for my marksmanship and my top notch hunting dogs, which I personally trained. Having grown up with a father who was a bronc buster, in my latter years I began to raise a few cattle and horses and took great joy in providing horseback rides for kids in Teague. I also had friends like ?Buddy? Palmore and Robert Earl Ross, who worked with me in responding to calls to round up bulls that broke out of their pastures. That was absolutely great fun! I also raised bees and gave a lot of demonstrations to school children about bee keeping.?

In 1986 Mr. Burnim received the Rural Heroism Award for saving the life of a young boy in Teague who almost drowned in a flooded drainage ditch.

Mr. Burnim wanted to say, ?I wish to express my thanks to the people of Teague, particularly my former students, for all of the years of friendship and support, and for the many expressions of kindness they have shown me. I especially acknowledge my longtime friendships with Jack Cox, Travis Webb, Sims Phillips, Albert Wright, Jimmy Abrams, Dr. E.V. Moore, Kella Redic and many others.?

In speaking to a few of Mr. Burnim?s former students, they had some things to say about him as a coach and teacher:

?I knew Coach Burnim when he was my P.E. coach. He encouraged all of us to do our very best.? Dale Swinburn

?He was a great teacher. He taught all my brothers and sisters. We tease my son Shaun, since he is a coach, that he sounds a lot like Arzo Burnim when he coaches.?

Shirley Collins Moore

?I loved him! He is the only teacher I had in junior high that I actually remember. He was so interactive with his students that he made learning science fun. We always called him Coach Burnim and he sure worked us hard in P.E.?

Nora Carter Carroll

?He is an awesome role model for all kids. You could tell his heart was for the kids. He was strict but you could go to him with anything.? Debbie Carroll Cox

?Fantastic teacher and very caring person. He insisted and expected every student to learn. He was fair and objective but firm. We were the first African American teachers to be transferred to Teague schools when they were integrated in 1965.?

Dr. E.V. Moore

?I think of him very highly as a person and his accomplishments. I still talk to him. All the people in the area thought of him as a wonderful person.?

Shirley Jean Kirvin

?He?s a great man! I loved him. When he coached me I was small in stature but he encouraged me to play football. I did better than I thought I could and learned a lot. He was strict and swung a mean paddle but you could always talk to him. He was a really fun person.? Dennis Cox

There were so many more who could put in so many tributes but we would have to dedicate an entire newspaper for that... maybe even a book. All there is left to say is, Arzo Burnim?You are loved.

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