The Country’s Best Coaches: Marlise Burton in Syracuse, NY

At CT3, we are fortunate to be able to meet and work closely with educators all over the country. We often find that the Real Time Teacher Coaches we train often hold different roles besides just “coach”. They’re not just No-Nonsense Nurturers, or skilled Real Time Teacher Coaches, but they’re also experts in a variety of subjects in their buildings to help better serve their students. Many are masters of lesson planning or teacher evaluations. Some are even Union representatives! Many are teacher leaders or school leaders that juggle both positions. We’re bringing recognition to many of the coaches we work with in schools across the country through our new blog series: “The Country’s Best Coaches”.

Many thanks to Marlise Burton, 7th grade ELA teacher, Engaging Classrooms Multi-Classroom Leader, and Real Time Teacher Coach at Westside Academy at Blodgett, a middle school campus at Syracuse City School District in Syracuse, NY.

Describe your multiple responsibilities in your building.

  • Teach my 7th grade ELA class
  • Real Time Teacher Coach
  • Provide teachers will weekly professional development based on our need and instructional focuses
  • Support teachers with data analysis using our Achievement Network results
  • Help organize and monitor standardized testing (Achievement Network and NYS testing)
  • Organizing parent events such as our Curriculum Lunches to increase parent engagement

How did you get selected as a Real Time Teacher Coach? How did that make you feel?

I was selected last year to become a Real Time Teacher Coach. It made me excited to be able to get into other teachers’ classrooms and help them feel supported and nurtured. I was one of the first teachers that received Real Time Teacher Coaching® by our first coach. It was a hard adjustment to make and I use my own challenges and experiences when coaching others!

Why is it beneficial to be able to coach your peers?

Being a coach to my peers helps them feel supported. I continue to refer back to the model even when I’m in a coaching cycle that is not a typical “Real Time Teacher Coaching (RTTC)” cycle. It gives us all at Westside some common language, which is essential for new teachers. We have such a high turnover that No-Nonsense Nurturer® (NNN) gives our newer staff members (to WSA or to teaching in general) some guidelines and structures to put into place.

What is the hardest part about being both a teacher and a coach?

It’s hard to balance the two. Sometimes when coaching, it’s difficult not to want to just jump in, or talk to your former students. Being a former sixth grade teacher, I see “my” children move on to other grade levels and I worry that they aren’t working to the potential that I know they can meet. When I’m coaching I am able to still support these students in an indirect way. This motivation is also sometimes a hurdle because I have to let their new teachers form their own relationships with these students, and “my kids” make their own judgments about new teachers. As a coach, you feel like you want to help everyone, but you need to think about how much time it takes to complete a coaching session that is well thought out and prepared. You wouldn’t go into your own classroom without data to back up your decisions and well-thought out probing questions and prompts. As a coach, you have to be just as prepared or more to enter a coaching session with a peer.

How has Real Time Teacher Coaching challenged you to improve or change your methods?

RTTC has challenged me to be a “model” No Nonsense Nurturer for other teachers. I want to make sure that I’m walking the walk and talking the talk. If others are going to listen to me during a coaching session then they need to be able to see that NNN lives in my classroom and with how I talk to kids. The NNN model has helped me break down step-by-step directions and think about what the kids are really doing and thinking about as they’re working. I feel that my students get a deeper understanding of my content because I break the process down for them step-by-step so they can digest what we’re doing.

What has the work of CT3 taught you about yourself?

Throughout our time at WSA with CT3, I have learned quite a bit about myself every year. At first, I thought I was a negative controller and so hard on the kids. But then I realized that depending on what child I was working with, I could be a negative controller or an unintended enabler. It dawned on me that I needed to be consistent with all kids because they see everything. They see how you deal with student A vs. student B. I always believed that what was fair wasn’t necessarily equal. I have now learned that in a child’s eyes, they may not see how things are “fair” and they may just see the “unequal” part. I have learned how to hold my kids accountable to high standards, and how to be “tough” on them but in a nurturing way.

Give a story of student success you attribute to No-Nonsense Nurturer® or Real Time Teacher Coaching.

My best student successes with using the NNN model have been through using “stay in the game” conversations with students who engage in a power struggle. Asking a question such as, “what do you need from me to help you be successful?” to open a door to a student’s heart or melt away their hard exterior has been the highlight of my role as a Real Time Teacher Coach. Seeing teachers that I am coaching find success by putting this quote in their toolbox is one of the more rewarding things as a RTTC . Who would think that a simple question could help start a relationship between a child and their teacher?

Why do you feel it’s important to build relationships with students?

It’s the number one thing! In life, you feel the most comfortable with people that you have a relationship with, whether it is your favorite cousin, your peer that you’ve worked with for years or your best friend from college. All humans depend on relationships with their peers. When trying to make a difference in our students’ lives and do what’s best for them, we have to make a valiant effort to build and foster genuine relationships. These relationships are what you fall back on when things get tough. Our children need to know that you will support them through the good, the bad and the ugly and help them reach their full potential. That’s why building relationships is the most important part of the No-Nonsense Nurturer model.

To learn more about Real Time Teacher Coaching, click here or email us at
Check out CT3 Education programs such as No-Nonsense Nurturer, Real Time Teacher Coaching, and Real Time Leadership Coaching to find out more about Professional Development for Teachers and Leaders, classroom management strategies, and building relationships with students and their families, and properly addressing important issues in the classroom and school.
Category: Coaching, Featured Educators, Leadership