Walking into Room 131 with his hair pulled back, wearing a reddish dinosaur button up shirt and sporting an Alice in Wonderland watch, student teacher Ryan Burroughs, is in a word, unconventional.
Burroughs has taken an interesting path to becoming a teacher. He worked in the culinary industry for 17 years at several establishments, including cooking for the Kansas City Chiefs since 2011.
“On average, I cooked for 75 players and 50 office personnel at a time,” Burroughs said. “It was a large amount of food because of the sheer size of the players and how much they consume. As long as the team was happy, I could cook whatever I wanted. It was cool to hear these famous guys tell me that I cooked a really good lunch.”
Burroughs enjoys preparing Creole foods such as gumbo, jambalaya and all varieties of soup.
“There are so many things you can do with soup,” Burroughs said. “I don’t know how to explain it. There are so many layers of flavor there.”
His wife is vegan, so he is constantly challenged to make different things for her.
“I’ve had to learn to cook things in a different way using ingredients that I never would have used,” Burroughs said. “I make sure that she is not eating the same thing every day. It has been pretty fun to trying to learn how to adapt my cooking styles without using ingredients like dairy, meat and other staples.”
Even with his culinary expertise, he loves to eat breakfast cereal and keeps an average of 42 boxes on hand at all times at his own residence.
“I mean, even if you just look at Cheerios, they have whatever flavor you want,” Burroughs said. “They have you covered if you want fruity with Fruity Cheerios. They have you covered if you want chocolate with Chocolate Cheerios.”
Although Burroughs enjoyed cooking, he was starting to get burned out and began looking for a career where he could make a difference. Burroughs had often been told that he would make a good teacher. He applied for several culinary instructor positions before deciding to return to college and earn his teaching degree.
“I decided to make English my emphasis in teaching,” Burroughs said. “I like the idea of being able to generate discussions that start from books. I could read a book and you could read book and we could get different things out of it.”
One of Burroughs’ favorite college classes was Teaching Young Adult Literature.
“I read different books like ‘Catcher in the Rye’ and ‘Lord of the Flies’ to understand how students might interpret the books differently than I would,” Burroughs said.
The thing he enjoys most about student teaching is putting the information that he learned into practice in the classroom.
“When you are in school, you are learning from textbooks and teachers,” Burroughs said. “You understand the theory and ideas behind it. You don’t get to teach a class of 25 students. That is how you really learn. Kathy Stewart is a great mentor. I am learning a lot from her.”
Burroughs tries to incorporate his greatest passions into his everyday life. Being a teacher, he wants to make at least one person laugh a day and hopes to see his students following his lead.
“There is so much negativity in the world, so I do what I can to add some silliness to the mix,” Burroughs said.