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Q & A: Sean Burns

09/14/2018 12:45PM ● Published by J. Chambless

Sean Burns became the new principal of the Penn London Elementary School in June. Landenberg Life caught up with him to talk about his early impressions of the Avon Grove School District, the challenges of being a principal, and who influenced his decision to become an educator in the first place.

Q: The new school year is underway. What have been some of your early impressions of the Avon Grove School District?

A: I can tell you, the reputation precedes itself. Avon Grove is an amazing school district. We have amazing families and such a supportive community. The commitment they have to not only the school, but also the community at large – it's phenomenal. It’s awesome to be a part of it and I’m excited. I’m excited for what the year is going to be, and most important, the opportunity to get to know all the families that I get to work with every day.

You have more than 20 years of experience in public and private education. Can you talk about your professional experiences you had before coming to Avon Grove?

I started as an elementary teacher and I loved what I did. I worked with kids from K-8 at a private school, St. Andrew’s in Drexel Hill. That’s where I developed that passion for working with students on all different levels. Next, I was fortunate enough to be hired at Garnet Valley as a teacher. I became assistant principal there two years later and stayed there for five more years. I then spent two years as principal at Upper Darby and returned to Garnet Valley when there was an opening at an elementary school. In 2013, I migrated to Owen J. Roberts High School. When the Avon Grove position opened, I was eager to return to my roots in elementary school. I love being in the elementary setting, so this was just the perfect opportunity.

Being a principal of a school comes with a lot of challenges, but the job probably has more than its share of rewarding moments, too. What is the best part of your job?

It’s the opportunities to be around the students: Helping out in the lunch room, having them smile and say hello, greeting them as they get off the bus and seeing them hold each other’s hands as they walk in the building. It’s those times when you’re like, 'Wow, this is awesome.'

Education seems to changing rapidly. What are you most excited about when it comes to how students are educated?

To me, it’s the accessibility they have to technology and how it can enhance the learning – not replace it, but to enhance the learning. To afford them opportunities where they’re able to use technology and not only do research but also to be able to produce, and most importantly to be able to ‘own it’ in a sense. To see kindergarten, first and second grade students do it, it’s phenomenal. And it’s amazing to see how much they know already!

We usually ask our Q & A subjects what three guests they would invite to a dinner party, but in your case, Mr. Burns, we're going to change it up a bit: What people are most responsible for your decision to become an educator?

My parents. Not only were they great role models for me, but to see them sacrifice their time to coach. They coached for years. The interesting part about it, my dad coached football, baseball, and track. But my mom also coached track, so they actually coached together, which was cool to see. You don’t see that too often. I had them as track coaches from fourth through eighth grade. I was around them a lot. They were involved, and they loved being around kids, and just being a part of what we did. They would definitely be the greatest influence on me.

What food is always in your refrigerator?

Pretzels are my favorite food, but they're not in my refrigerator. I would say iced tea. I'm an iced tea drinker.

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