Donor Spotlight: Teresa Burgess, PMP®


27 February 2020

Published inPM for Social Good

Teresa Burgess speaking to group of young people

Teresa Burgess, PMP® speaking to a group of young people.

Teresa Burgess, PMP®, says love of education is in her blood. Through six generations on her father’s side, 15 people have been educators. Her great-great-grandfather deeded part of his land so that a school could be built on it. Once a teacher herself, Teresa has made a heartfelt commitment to support PMI Educational Foundation (PMIEF) with consistent donations.

Formerly a board member as VP of programs of PMI Oklahoma City Chapter, Teresa has been employed with Moore Norman Technology Center in Norman, OK, for 20 years, serving as director of projects. However before going full bore into project management, she was a high school English teacher whose organizational skills were essential to her classroom.

“Other teachers would say, ‘How do you get all of that stuff done?’and kids would comment, ‘You're the most organized teacher I've ever had,’” she recalls. “I just blew it off; I figured other people just didn’t bother to use their organizational skills.” It never occurred to her that they didn’t have any real organizational skills at all.

Teresa directed students to approach their entire year of study as a project with specific goals, requirements, timelines, deliverables. One student named Paul “… really jelled with the approaches and liked helping me in the classroom,” Teresa says. Fast forward two decades, and Teresa is invited to Paul’s 20th high school reunion. “I told him I’d become certified in project management and Paul said, ‘I always loved your class, and now I know why. We both are project managers.’ Paul had become a PM in electrical engineering.”

Teresa left teaching because she felt there was something more she was intended to do, but she wasn’t sure what it was. She took a job at Moore Norman and was tasked with creating and scheduling various training programs for adults, and later, creating corporate training programs for industries. In the midst of it all, a colleague (a recent officer at her PMI chapter) approached her and said, “You are doing project management, and I would like to mentor you. I think you should get your certification.”

“So I bought a self-study guide, read the first chapter, and was amazed. I called my mom and said, ‘Mom, now I know who I am! I'm not just a teacher; I'm a project manager who loves to teach,’” says Teresa.

She credits her mentor, who took the time to connect her to the power of project management, with her own success at forging a fulfilling career. She hopes the money she donates to PMIEF will do the same thing for youth pondering their futures. “By giving, I truly can be part of what PMI is doing globally to help youth. Honestly, I love the fact that funds I'm giving are being used to enlighten youth that aren't even aware of what project management is. It's that awareness piece that really excites me.”

She believes she and other project managers have a rare opportunity to provide children with their first exposure to project management by “… showing up, being interested in their lives, and demonstrating that organizational skills can help them accomplish their goals.”

Teresa recalls receiving a note from a boy on the last day of school. “I found a note on my desk. It said, ‘My mom can't believe how much I've changed this year because of the system you taught us. Now my whole room is organized. I even organize my socks.’ I realized he applied the organizational skills he learned in English class to other parts of his life, to his own environment.”

Teresa hopes other project managers also will opt to become donors to PMIEF. “As PMs, we are very focused on what we are doing at any given time. But we need to lift our eyes toward the future, and ask, ‘What can I do to leave a legacy in project management for the next generation?’  By giving to PMIEF, we have an opportunity to impact project management for generations to come. Imagine helping someone else discover their strengths for project management – what is more rewarding that that? Somebody did that for me. Sharing project management skills with young people will allow them to find out who they are, and become more successful at whatever it is they love.” 


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