SAN ANTONIO — “She’s great with kids. She’s great with her peers. She was our Fine Arts. Department Coordinator, so she’s also in a leadership role. “
With pride in his eyes, Principal Ryan Purtell describes what it’s like working with Tiffany Burrell.
Burrell’s passion put her on the stage at a very young age. She danced her way into adulthood until she found a new love and when she finally combined both, she ended up as a powerhouse at Northside ISD’s Stevens High School.
“Save the Last Dance is probably one of my favorites [movies]. That’s probably because it came out when I was in high school. “
And it’s no coincidence. Dancing has always been Burrell’s heart and soul.
“I do love jazz. But no there are some days I like more contemporary style, more lyrical style, and sometimes I like to do more hip hop.”
When you watch Burrell’s students dance, it's clear that they are a testament to her deeply rooted love.
“I knew I wanted to be a teacher, then I realized I can do what I love in dancing and teach[ing]," Burrell said, “putting those 2 things together was a dream job definitely.”
Burrell started when she was just seven years old and danced her way through high school and college.
“I started as a dance teacher in 2011 at Stevens High School. I was the dance team director. In 2014, I started the Jazz Dance Co. here at Stevens.”
Today, the lessons she teaches at Stevens High School reach far beyond the stage.
"She just doesn’t teach the art of dance with the kids. She also prepares them for life,” said Elizabeth Lopez, Assistant Director of Fine Arts at Stevens High School.
Her positivity and commitment are just one of the many reasons we honored her with our KENS 5 Credit Human EXCEL award.
Northside ISD Superintendent Brian Woods says Burrell is exceptional, “It seems like every time we do a large scale district production, we like to showcase our students [and] Tiffany is there.”
This year after the pandemic, Burrell had to make some adjustments to her dance classes moving to the virtual world.
“We make it happen. We get on Zoom and work together. Kind of like those old workout videos” said a chuckling Burrell.
“That’s what I feel like I’m doing some times. They’re up and moving in their living rooms with us and it’s really neat. Sometimes, the little brother or sister get to hop in too and dance with us also”
In some of her classes, Burrell has 40 to 50 kids on Zoom but she said she tag teams with another teacher, and together they’re able to manage their dance lessons.
“We have huge projector screens we put up there and that kind of helps. We’ve used a lot of recordings of students. They’ll record themselves, they’ll send it to us and we’ll give feedback. 'Hey, make sure you point your toes on this leap.' Or whatever it may be.”
Burrell’s also credited with starting Jazz Dance Company at Stevens High School, an elite group for fine arts dance departments where students hold campus concerts and recitals.
“We have traveled in the past. We’ve gone to New York and LA to take dance classes and see shows. We’ve taken them to different colleges to look at their dance programs.”
And no matter where you find her, her contagious positivity never fails to light up the room.
“It’s never about learning how to do a leap or a pirouette, it’s those life skills that mean a lot more. Being able to work with your teammates-- that’s something they can take with them for the rest of their lives. Knowing to smile no matter what happens on stage. Self-Confidence!”
Among her many achievements, Burrell was also recently promoted to an administrative job overseeing the fine arts departments.