Burden Principal Lambert focused on ‘heart for kids’

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By MIKE EDDLEMAN

The halls at Bill Burden Elementary are quiet as new principal Tanya Lambert goes about the work of preparing for a new school year, but looking to that first day in August has her focused and excited.

She calls it her favorite time, getting to know the students and their families, setting about creating what she believes is the all-important foundation of love and trust. Building those relationships is what makes it possible for children to succeed.

“It is beyond important,” Lambert said of establishing relationships. “I fully believe that to teach kids you have to have their heart first and they have to know they are safe, cared for and loved at school, and that goes for everybody in this building.”

Whether it is the first day or the last, she has a simple mantra for her students: “Remember how much you matter and you are loved.”

“That’s the measure of our success,” she said. “Kids leave here every day and know that they matter, they are loved and that we believe in them and will give them everything they need to succeed as a whole person. It is important for teachers, parents and everyone to know that’s what we do here.”

Lambert was named the new principal at Bill Burden in May, stepping in to lead following the retirement of Terrie Chambers.

It is not her first time to work on the campus after spending just over two months at Burden when she first arrived in Liberty Hill in 2017.

“It was like coming back home a little bit,” she said of the new post. “Everybody was super welcoming. I’ve gotten to meet with all the teams of teachers and I’m looking forward to getting together with some parents over the summer and getting to know this school community a little bit better the way I spent the last couple of years getting to know the Rancho (Sienna) community.”

After the initial short stay at Burden she assumed assistant principal duties at Rancho Sienna. She has been in education since 2002, after graduating from Tarleton State University.

She has been a first grade teacher, both a reading and math specialist, counselor and assistant principal in both Royse City ISD and Liberty Hill.

Though she thought for a time she was going a different direction, working with children and teaching has always seemed to be her primary path.

“That was always my plan,” Lambert said of her calling to education. “My first major was accounting and I wanted to go into the FBI and investigate white collar crime. I took a couple of classes and that was not where my heart was, so I knew from my freshman year of college I was going to be a teacher.”

Being a teacher is all about those relationships she continues to say are the critical element to successful teaching.

“I connect well and I enjoy being around them,” she said. “I love learning from them. When I started getting into the field and learning how we teach and instructional practices and things like that it really interested me. I love having that moment when a child learns to read and it clicks for them.”

Her career path led to administration by circumstance, following six years as a counselor.

“I was a school counselor and I loved everything about it, but I was in a position where my school principal was getting ready to retire, so some of her duties had fallen on my assistant principal, and then some of her duties had fallen on myself,” Lambert said. “I started doing part of her role and fell in love with that. They encouraged me to go back to school and get my certification.”

She moved into that assistant principal position, and when she moved from the Dallas area to be closer to family, she found a new home in Liberty Hill.

“I love this community,” she said. “I love the pride that everybody has here, I love how Bill Burden has a whole lot of pride. These teachers are excellent and these kids are excellent, and joining them is an honor.”

No matter how the day ends up or what it includes, it always begins with her favorite part.

“I start every day with kids,” Lambert said. “I do morning duty either outside or in the hallways walking up and down through the rooms, then I spend the first hour walking the building, talking to everyone, checking on everyone, just taking a temperature for the day.

“I’m in classrooms as much as possible because they’re the reason why I am here, and getting to know them and being part of their educational day is important to me from the very beginning to the very end.”

This summer, a chalkboard wall is being painted in her office to create a unique way she can honor and support student achievement, allowing them to come in, visit, and write something on the wall.

“That way I can take their picture and they can come to the principal’s office for good things, it’s not just a negative place to come,” she said. “Knowing (a student’s name) and their face, greeting them eye-to-eye with a handshake every morning is very important to their school day.”

In addition to supporting students, Lambert – who calls herself a behind the scenes person – wants to provide similar support to her teachers and watch them succeed.

“It is my job to give them absolutely everything they need to go in that classroom and teach their kids and then get out of their way and let them do it,” Lambert said. “I’m going to give them every tool, resource and the coaching they need to go in the room and teach the kids, and then I’m going to hold them accountable for doing it. I’m a servant leader, I believe we are all here to pitch in and do the same job. I’m going to serve our kids and our teachers because they are the masters in the field and I’ve got to get out of the way and let them do it.”

Even in hiring new teachers, which is a key part of her new position right out of the gate, Lambert knows she will be entrusting them with “the most important thing in the building” and she has to find the right people to fit into the Bill Burden family.

“I look for a heart for kids,” she said. “I can teach somebody strategy and how to teach math, and we can learn division and fractions, but I can’t teach someone how to really care about the kids who walk through the door.”

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