Teacher Tuesday: LAC’s Mary Burden, wearing a lot of hats.

March 24, 2020

Mary Burden

Teacher Tuesday: LAC’s Mary Burden, wearing a lot of hats.

By Kate Krieger, MCP Staff Writer.

Teacher Tuesday is a presentation of Metalworks. Metalworks is a small, family-run company with facilities located in Ludington and Manistee, manufacturing metal office filing systems. Be sure to show your support by liking the Metalworks Facebook page here.

Mason County Press is featuring area educators each week in a series called “Teacher Tuesday.” We will be choosing different educators from Mason County.

LUDINGTON – After graduating in 1979 from West Catholic High School in Grad Rapids and then graduating with her teaching degree from Aquinas College in 1983, Ludington Area Catholic teacher, Mary Burden was strong in her faith and very excited to spread the word of her faith, when she received her teaching position at LAC.

“I was recommended to the principal at Ludington Area Catholic School by a principal in Greenville,” she said. “I was interviewed and hired to teach fourth grade. After six years, I became the fifth grade and sixth grade language arts teacher. Seven years after that, I moved to the third grade position. And last year and this year, I have also been teaching fourth grade religion and language arts.”

As a teacher at LAC, the staff is small, and Burden has been asked to do a lot more than just teaching one grade-level. The staff at LAC where a lot of different hats to provide not only classroom instruction, but also to provide religious guidance and mentoring of the students.

“There are many other roles in which the staff at LAC participate,” she said. “We see the benefit of being involved with the enrichment of children beyond the classroom. We are the school curriculum committee, half of the accreditation committee and organize many school activities. The teachers rotate having bus duty and decorating the school entrance display case one month of the year. We also take one month to be professional in charge, in case the principal is out of the building. I truly enjoy coordinating and challenging the older students participating in the school spelling bee, in addition to expanding students’ prayer life with the school-wide Living Rosary, visits to the Adoration Chapel and occasionally leading the school singing a cappella when our music minister is not available. I am on a few school committees and work at most events that fundraise or further the success of Ludington Area Catholic School.”

When asked about teaching at a small, private school compared to a larger, public school, Burden feels that it as much about the environment as it is about the individual.

“Teaching children is different wherever you teach,” she said. “The dynamics of the children and their surroundings influence how a child learns. In my lessons and approach, I consider the whole child- mental, social, emotional, physical and spiritual. At LAC, we have the advantage of incorporating God’s love and presence throughout all the subjects and school days. It drives our teaching the students respect for others and themselves.”

Burden has spent her entire 36 years teaching at LAC and even though she has had many different experiences with students and staff, there is one thing that she enjoys the most about her job.

“The excitement in the faces of students when they have achieved something great or understand a difficult concept is so rewarding,” she said. “When I’m reading, using many different voices for the characters and building suspense in the delivery of a read aloud, I love seeing the students fully involved with the story, as if they are present with the characters. I enjoy working with the students during Writer’s Workshop to expand their creativity in developing the characters, setting, and plot. I love the excitement, energy and love of life the students bring into the classroom, it keeps me young.”

Burden said she knew she wanted to become a teacher ever since the fourth grade.

“I have been blessed with inspiring educators,” she said. “My mom, aunt and sister have been teachers. When I was in college, there was an abundance of teacher, and the advisors discouraged many students from becoming teachers. That just made me more determined to be a teacher who makes a difference in children’s lives. I also look back at many aspects of my life and realize that God has had a plan for me and has been coaching and guiding me along the way.”

When asked what advice she would give to students wanting to pursue a career in teaching, Burden stated that it isn’t a job to take lightly because you are molding minds of young people.

“Teaching is about the precious gifts of life you are entrusted with to develop, enrich, strengthen, and challenge so they become the best person they can be,” she said. “You need effective classroom management skills. You earn the students’ respect by having their best interests dictating your rapport with them.”

With these times of uncertainty due to the coronavirus and the shutdown of Michigan schools until further notice, Burden and her co-workers are working hard to maintain relationships with their students and families.

“The staff at Ludington Area Catholic School have been conducting distance learning,” she said. “Our parents picked up textbooks, workbooks, supplies and lesson plan packets for their children. I have been talking with each of my students and his/her parent every school day for fifteen to thirty minutes, practicing his/her multiplication facts, working through difficult concepts and answering any questions about the lessons. I am practicing with a few students what I learned from a colleague who is utilizing Google Hangouts to video chat with and instruct students and plan to present lessons using this avenue.”

Even through a mandated state-wide shutdown, Burden, along with thousands of other teachers are still working in order to serve their students and families the best ways they can during these uncertain times.

“There are many people who think teachers have work hours similar to when students are present,” she said. “This is just not true for a teacher who prepares effective lessons, communicates with parents, works with students before or after hours, corrects assignments and tests, creates an educational atmosphere in the classroom, and continually takes professional development classes during the school year and summer. I know if someone calls my home asking for me before 5:30, my husband says to them, ‘You must not know my wife very well!’”

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