Black History Month, Spanish teacher, costumes

Pennsylvania Teacher Brings Black History To Life At Her School With Historical Costumes

Tamika Burton has dressed up as Tina Turner, Ella Fitzgerald, Bessie Coleman, and Joe Louis, among other African American trailblazers.

Each February, Tamika Burton, a Spanish teacher at Collegium Charter School in Exton, Pennsylvania, goes above and beyond to honor African American trailblazers. According to CBS News, Burton dresses in elaborate costumes, portraying pioneering women and men, to inspire her students. She quizzes them on the identity of each, making history come alive in her classroom in the process.

“I have been dressing up as a different person during Black History Month for the past three years,” Burton explained of her now beloved tradition.

Located in Chester County, Collegium Charter School provides K-12 education. And Burton has turned Black History Month into a school-wide event. She even hands out treats to students and staff who guess the historical figures correctly.

She prioritizes lesser-known change-makers rather than repeatedly discussing the more popular civil rights leaders. “It’s so easy to do MLK, maybe Malcolm X and Rosa Parks,” Burton acknowledged. “I can do people that they really don’t know.” Burton has already made appearances as aviator Bessie Coleman and boxer Joe Louis.

“She would come in with the weirdest outfits,” recalled student Aniyah White. But now White and her peers see that their teacher “gives us opportunities to see what else we can do for our life.”

Burton’s costumes make history active by portraying past and present Black contributors as living legacies. “The main takeaway is the same as it’s been for years — that Black history is American history and it should be discussed as often any history is taught,” she explained. The Spanish teacher believes “it shouldn’t be relegated to just a class on African-American history. It should be interwoven between all courses.”

Through her teachings and her spot-on outfits, Burton advocates for recognizing diverse narratives of African American heroes and pioneers across subjects and across time.

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