The Lessons I Learned on the Mountaintop

The Lessons I Learned on the Mountaintop

By Sarah Burden, CCC-SLP, Speech-Language Pathologist

Visiting Kenya was not my only adventure last summer. After spending two weeks in Mombasa, I traveled to Tanzania, where I joined a group of Compassion International sponsors in an attempt to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. This was an adventure unlike any other. It pushed me out of my comfort zone and challenged me physically, mentally and emotionally more than ever before.

For six days, I hiked up and down Mount Kilimanjaro with a team of 26 sponsors and 91 porters and guides from African Walking Company alongside us. At midnight on day five, starting at 15,500 feet in altitude, we began our climb to the summit. We hiked for eight grueling hours in the dark with only the light of our headlamps to guide our way.

There were moments when I wanted to quit, turn around and go back down that mountain. My head was hurting, I felt nauseated and it was hard to breathe. I was tired. Besides, I'd already seen enough beauty and climbed higher than I'd ever been before. Wasn't that enough?

I wanted to quit. But I didn't.

With the support of my teammates and guides, I made it to the top of that mountain—all 19,341 feet of it! We encouraged each other, sang songs of victory and repeated anthems in Swahili—"Pamoja tunaweza! Together we can!" All of this, along with the support of our guides, gave me strength to take the next step and kept me moving forward.

Conquering that mountain was more than a check off my bucket list. The lessons I learned on the mountaintop, I carried with me back down to sea level, back to my life in Houston, and into my role this year at The Joy School.

Love this story?

Learn more about Sarah's trip to Africa here!



Sarah Burden

About the Author

Sarah attended the University of Alabama where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communicative Disorders in 2008. She continued her education at the University of Houston to earn a Master's in Speech-Language Pathology in May of 2010. Sarah first fell in love with TJS when completing her graduate school internship in fall of 2009. After graduation, she had the privilege of completing her clinical fellowship at The Parish School, where she was a preschool Speech-Language Pathologist. Meanwhile, Sarah spent four summers working at Camp For All in Burton, TX, serving children and adults with special needs and chronic illnesses. Sarah eventually made her way back to The Joy School in 2011. In the summers of 2012 & 2014, she spent her time volunteering as a Speech-Language Therapist in Mombasa, Kenya, serving at Mombasa Children's Therapy Clinic and Tumaini Children's Home and Sirio School.

Degrees Held
Bachelor of Arts in Communicative Disorders from University of Alabama
Master of Arts in Communications Disorders from University of Houston

More Stories from TJS

Nurse's Notes: Preventing the Flu This Flu Season

In this edition of Nurses Notes, Nurse Mary explains ways that you and your family can prevent getting the flu this year. She also describes a campaign she is working on at The Joy School to help students understand the importance of proper hand hygiene and the role it plays in preventing the spread of illness.

Education Vocabulary: The Basics of Scaffolding

In this post, we discuss scaffolding with Andrea Dorr, our Transition Coordinator and former math teacher, to help you better understand this term and help you visualize how it's used in our classrooms. We also explain the integral role scaffolding plays as Andrea evaluates students' readiness to transition into other schools.

Summer Learning at The Joy School

Summer programs at The Joy School are a great way to bridge the gap between school years in a relaxed environment, and for younger students, summer programs are a great way to prepare for their first year of school. Learn more about The Joy School summer programs by reading our most recent blog post!

#WhoCaresIDo Global Challenge: Students Standing Against Bullying

Ms. Burden's fourth and fifth grade students participated in the #WhoCaresIDo Challenge - a global challenge that encourages young people to stand against bullying and stand up for inclusion and kindness. Learn more about the art projects they completed and submitted in our most recent post!

Crafting Effective Consequences

Jan Flowers, Learning Specialist, explains how to effectively use a variety of different types of consequences, a topic she presented on at the 2018 Early Childhood Methodist Conference.

The Language of Math

Summer Erskine, Learning Specialist, explains how she uses the CPA Method (Concrete, Pictorial and Abstract) in her classroom to teach math.

All About Asthma

The winter season is upon us, and with it comes cooler weather. This may trigger an asthma flare-up. You might be asking yourself, what is asthma? How can we prevent it? Read on to learn what asthma is, and what you can do prevent asthma attacks from happening.


Alumni Update!

Shout out to Zach Johnson, TJS alumnus who is now a 3rd degree black belt!

Alumni Update!

TJS alumnus Charlie just "signed" at National Signing Day to run cross country and track!

One Gift Opens Up a World of Play

When we received the wonderful news that an alumni family made an anonymous major gift to The Joy School for our outdoor space, the AEIOU (Association for the Evaluation & Improvement of Outdoor Utilization) jumped into action.


The Lessons I Learned on the Mountaintop

Sarah Burden, Speech-Language Pathologist, shares an adventure that pushed her out of her comfort zone and challenged her physically, mentally and emotionally more than ever before.

Adult Alumni Happy Hour!

Share a drink with us, on us. Gather with your old friends, teachers, and administrators while we share stories and catch up.

Cardboard Arcade

Our 5th graders participated in the Global Cardboard Challenge this year, creating a real-life arcade out of mostly recycled materials for our students and parents to enjoy! Here they are with some of their creations.

Alumni Takeover Family Fun Night

Thanks to all the alumni who came to visit us at Family Fun Night! We are so lucky to have you and can't wait to see all you accomplish!

Alumni Athletes

We are so proud of these alumni! Shout outs to these athletes for making time for their passions.

Fall Alumni Visitors

We are overwhelmed by the number of alumni who came to visit TJS already this fall semester! Here are some of the friendly faces we were so glad to see

How to Save Wet Books

While books may not be on the top of your priorities list, they provide a needed escape, a way to learn and grow, and something tangible to hold onto, which can be so important following loss.


Genius Hour: Favorite Time of the Day

"Are we having Genius Hour today?" From the day we introduced Genius Hour to our classes, students asked this question frequently and with great anticipation.