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Veteran’s Spotlight: Michael Burrell

Nov. 12, 2018  

Michael Burrell  Michael Burrell spent two decades in the military, shaped by a way of life that stresses discipline and toughness.

But you might not know it from the sweetness in his voice and the impact he’s made on the young students at Timmerman Elementary.

For the past 27 years, Burrell’s been commuting from Killeen to Timmerman for his job, initially as a custodian and, since 1994, as a physical education assistant. He’s outlasted a bevy of principals and staff members, and has seen the tiniest students grow into college graduates and even NFL and WNBA players. 

“I had to tone my voice down a little bit, but the transition (from the Army) was really smooth,” said Burrell, known simply as “Mr. Michael” around the Timmerman hallways. “I had to realize I wasn’t in charge of adults and soldiers any more. You have to think about your own kids and think of the students as your own kids. It wasn’t hard.”

The charismatic Burrell had just retired from the Army when a chance meeting at the YMCA in Round Rock led to a job as an after-school program coordinator at Northwest Elementary. While at that job, he heard about an open custodian position at Timmerman, which he was initially hesitant to take. 

But the father of three sons found the job meshed well with his family life, and the following year, he again found himself with a job offer – this time as the Timmerman P.E. assistant.

More than a quarter-century later, it seems to have worked out well for him.

“I’m so happy with what I’ve done here,” he said. “If I were to die right now, I would know I’m going to heaven. Everything else, it’s icing on the cake.”

Looking back, Burrell credits his time in the military with providing the discipline he’s needed in his current position.

“It made me stronger,” he said. “It’s just been a different age group here.”

It seems it’s also been an experience enjoyed by his students, who often ask for him by name when they stop by to visit as older students and adults.

“The fruit of all this is when they come back to see you, when they ask about you,” he said. “We have to bring the kids up, like we’re supposed to. God will take care of the rest. The students don’t forget it.”

When asked if he has plans to stop commuting from Killeen and take it easy in retirement anytime soon, Burrell doesn’t hesitate, quickly shooting back a “not yet.”

“This is where God wanted me to be,” he said. “I enjoy it; I love it. When it’s time to go, he’ll let me know.”