Columbia, SC--Mary Burts of Columbia, SC, was appointed to the RSWCD Board of Commissioners in May of 2020. A long-time resident of Richland County, Burts grew up and attended school in the Lowcountry of SC. Burts’s father was an agronomist and worked with Conservation Districts around the state, specializing in soil science. His career kept the family on the move, and Burts attended several different schools until beginning her undergraduate career at Montreat College in North Carolina.
Burts studied Library Science and finished her degree at Appalachian State University. She received her K-12 teaching certification and began a long and decorated career as an educator. Burts continued her education at Appalachian State to receive a Master’s Degree in Middle School Education. She specialized in environmental education and biology, and she continued as a middle school science teacher for several years.
During her Master’s program, Burts learned the effectiveness of hands-on classroom experiences, especially in the subject of science. When Burts became part of the Education Science Leadership program in 1989, she grew familiar with environmental education initiatives such as Project Learning Tree and Project WILD that specialize in hands-on learning. She gained certifications in these programs and integrated their nature-based curricula into her classroom. Burts soon became known as the “Pied Piper of Environmental Science” and was an active leader in local 4-H chapters.
Burts was introduced to RSWCD in the mid-1980s, and she immediately added its educational resources and programs to her toolkit. Since then, Burts has volunteered countless hours to support RSWCD’s programs. Burts was recognized as Conservation Teacher of the Year twice during her teaching career, and she became an Associate Commissioner of the RSWCD in 2009. She has served as a classroom presenter, workshop facilitator, event planner, Seed Sanctuary volunteer, science fair judge, and much more. Burts was recognized in 2018 as the RSWCD Volunteer of the Year for her hard work and passion for conservation.
While no longer working with K-12 students, Burts is still active as an adult educator in Richland County School District One. She still makes time to volunteer with RSWCD, and her skills and expertise are put to use each year as a poster contest judge, mini-grant evaluator, and more. It was an obvious choice for her to join the RSWCD Board of Commissioners when a seat became vacant.
As a lifelong educator, Burts’s priority as a Commissioner is to further RSWCD’s involvement in schools across Richland County and to continue being of service to educators. Burts emphasizes the importance of introducing conservation to students as early as possible. The key to engaging more people in conservation, Burts believes, is “to connect with educators and form lifetime relationships.” She wants to keep the fun in education, and she believes RSWCD has the tools to do so.
In addition to her professional and volunteer service, Burts enjoys working in her garden and reading. She loves to travel, and she is a dedicated member of Kathwood Baptist Church.
Burts is excited for the new responsibilities that come with being on the RSWCD’s Board of Commissioners. All RSWCD classroom programs begin with a discussion of the word “conservation,” and asking students what that word means to them. Burts says that, to her, conservation means “taking care of what we have and where we are, and making it better for tomorrow.” With Burts as a Commissioner, RSWCD will continue to invest in local students, schools, and communities to create a better tomorrow through conservation education.
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Conservation Districts are political subdivisions of state government under the local direction of five-member Boards of Commissioners. In South Carolina, Conservation District boundaries conform to County boundaries. The Richland Soil and Water Conservation District promotes the wise use and care of natural resources for long-term sustainability.
Richland Soil and Water Conservation District
2020 Hampton Street, Room 3063A
Columbia, SC 29204
Phone (803) 576-2080
Fax (803) 576-2088