Longhorn Legends honored for impact on community

Special to the Bulletin
Brownwood Bulletin

EARLY — The second group of Longhorn Legends — members of the Early Longhorn family who have made an impact on the world in some form or fashion — was honored Friday night during Early’s 36-0 victory over Grape Creek.

Then-Early superintendent Wes Beck wanted last year to find a way to recognize some of the students who have gone on to be successful and have given back, both to Early and to society. Beck also wanted to recognize some of the staff that has made a difference in these students’ lives.

This year’s Longhorn Legends are:

Cliff Mitchell

He has been married to his beautiful wife, Connie, for fifty years. They have two children, Dan and Britni. Their son, Dan, is married to Cassie. Their daughter, Britni, is married to Derek and they have two children, Orien and Baylea.

Cliff taught and coached for Early ISD for 26 years from 1993-2019. His coaching philosophy is “Focus on IMPROVEMENT in a child’s life through competitive sports whether it was win, lose, or tie.” He was instrumental in starting the plans for the athletic training room, also known as “the big room.”

He helped start the “Little Longhorns” program that still continues today. He helped to get the girls’ softball field built. He is most known for his rapport with kids. He wouldn’t let kids quit anything until he could help them replace it with something else in which they could be successful.

He exemplifies what it means to be a true educator. While coaching and teaching at Early, he was truly a positive role model for all students in the entire school. His offensive players still remember the phrase “Zipboomba!” to this day. He treated all students with an equal amount of respect no matter what their interests and talents were. He mentored dozens of up and coming coaches throughout his years at Early. He was always willing to serve where the district needed him.

His former students always say that he was fair and loved them. He had the biggest smile that would liven up any room and he never let any student feel lonely. Cliff Mitchell truly exemplifies what it means to be a Longhorn Legend!

Vannessa (Vann) Stewart

She is a proud graduate of the EHS class of 1987. She was blessed to have had past Longhorn Legend award recipients, Beverly Hohertz and Johnny King, as her mentors while attending school in Early. Upon graduation, she vowed to never come back, but once she had her first child, she knew there was only one school district for her kids!

Beale-Madison is a 2016 graduate, Vance-Cady is a 2020 graduate, and John-Stewart is currently a sophomore. Vann’s parents were active members in the Early school system with her mom serving 20 years on the school board and her dad serving as president of the PTC and Booster Club. Their leadership is the reason that Vann became active in her children’s school.

She has been involved in PTC’s, worked on many projects from homecoming floats to concession duty, served on site-based committees at the campuses, was a Project Graduation officer,  and is currently the Booster Club President. Vann is also a leader in the community. She is an active member of Salt Creek Baptist Church serving on numerous committees including Chairman of the Finance Committee. She teaches Sunday school as well.

She’s also a Board member of the Brown County youth fair. Vann earned an Associates degree from Blinn College in 1988, a Bachelor’s degree from Texas A&M University in 1990, and a Master’s degree from Texas Tech University in 1997. She is employed as the Executive Vice President of the Texas Independent Ginners Association.

Her motto is “If it’s big enough to worry about, it’s big enough to pray about.” Vann exemplifies through action what it means to be a proud member of the community as her love of people and service to others begins with her personal family and extends to her community family. She truly is a Longhorn Legend who loves and leads well.

Chad Burleson

He has been married to his beautiful wife, Shasta, for 19 years. They have three sons, Jared, Kaden, and Kendal. Chad attended Early ISD from Kindergarten through 12th grade. He is a proud graduate of the class of 1996.

While he was in high school, he was involved in football and received the Academic All-State award. Through hard work and dedication, he was ranked 4th in his class. He was involved in basketball, track, National Honor Society, PALS, Choir, school musicals, and participated in UIL for Mathematics. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Education in 2001 and his Masters degree in Education in 2017, both from Howard Payne University.

He has served in education for twenty total years with the last fifteen being at Early ISD from 2005 to the present. He taught middle school math and U.S. History, was the UIL Academic Sponsor,  taught high school math, coached high school football, basketball, and softball. He was also a FCA Sponsor. He was the Dean of Students at the middle school for two years before becoming principal where he currently still serves in that role. He serves on various youth sports boards and is a volunteer coach for youth sports teams.

Chad said, “As soon as I figured out I wanted to go into education, I knew I wanted to come back and work at Early.  I wanted to follow in the footsteps of the Early ISD teachers who had made a positive impact on my life.  These teachers continue to be a big influence on my life and on my career as an educator. I always try to put others first and lead by example.

“My Favorite quote is ’Stay positive, work hard, and make it happen.’ He is known for working everyday to make Early better. Chad is the epitome of a Longhorn Legend because he started here and chose to come back and make a difference in the community and in the lives of children here at Early ISD, his alma mater.

Cliff Mitchell