By Barbara Mallory Caraway, Special Projects Director, Nova Academy, Dallas
Inspired by a cause close to her heart, one Dallas middle school teacher galvanized her school to action.
When her aunt died of breast cancer in 2014, Nova Academy English teacher Sade Burkman was devastated. Her aunt, Elizabeth Oyetunde, 50, of El Paso, lived with the disease for eight years and is survived by her five children.
She turned her grief into action and took up the crusade to educate others about breast cancer. She began before her aunt’s death, wanting to share risk factors, diagnosis and treatment options. In 2013, Burkman asked and received permission from her administrator for Nova Academy to join the public awareness campaign.
That first year, she handed out pink ribbons in October for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The second year, Burkman created an informational display on breast cancer that included pink-colored paraphernalia.
This year, marks the first since Burkman’s aunt died and it holds special significance for her. She partnered with her students to design a T-shirt that would memorialize those impacted by breast cancer.
“I told them I wanted a heart (love), wings (faith), and ribbons (hope). After three tries they got it right,” she said.
Breast cancer is the second leading cause of death in women and one in eight U.S. women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime, according to the National Breast Cancer Foundation. If found and treated early, many women can survive the disease. Burkman said it is important for students to understand this disease because of its broad implications for the victims and for surviving family members.
Participating in Breast Cancer Awareness Month helps to heal the pain of losing her aunt, she said. And having the school support her in the awareness efforts has been invaluable, she said.
“I am most grateful to [Nova Academy CEO] Donna Houston-Woods — for her encouragement and support,” she said.
“I mentioned to her last year that I wanted to do something a little more, and I left it at that. When school started she reminded me of my intentions. She supported the T-shirt idea,” Burkman said.
Staff members now wear the T-shirts every Wednesday in October.
With tears, she said, “I’m happy.”
Nova Academy serves more than 900 students at three campus locations in Dallas. The charter’s mission is to educate all students in a multi-cultural environment where parents and the community will serve as partners in achieving academic excellence of our students.