Ms. Katie Burns '03: The Woodstock Academy's Teacher of the Year
Posted by Julia Budd, Director of Communications on 11/8/2017
Students in Ms. Katie Burns’s English class describe her classroom as comfortable yet challenging. Burns seamlessly integrates current events, group learning, vocabulary, and technology into her classroom allowing her students to get the most out of the content. According to English department chair, Cynthia Morrill, Burns runs a “friendly and welcoming classroom” and she has “an excellent rapport with students and the department.”
Holly Singleton ’86, The Woodstock Academy’s associate head of school, observed that “Ms. Burns’s classroom is characterized by structure and enjoyment – a combination that is not always easy to achieve.” Singleton added that “the purpose of her instruction, regardless of the novel or play that the class is reading, is to empower students and to help them take an active role in their instruction.”
It is for these reasons, and more, that The Woodstock Academy is pleased to honor Katie Burns ’03 as the 2017-2018 Teacher of the Year. Burns is a dedicated member of the English faculty and 2003 alumna of The Academy. While Burns has taught a range of classes at The Academy, she is particularly gifted in teaching foundational English classes and providing extra support for her students.
The Teacher of the Year selection process begins with nominations open to anyone in The Woodstock Academy community: students, parents, faculty, staff, and community members. This year participants submitted over 120 nominations for almost 50 different teachers, but ultimately it was Burns who was selected by a vote from The Academy’s faculty and staff as Teacher of the Year.
Burns humbly responded to the honor saying that “teaching at Woodstock Academy is inspiring. There are so many good teachers here that it keeps me on my toes.”
“She is constantly looking to improve her practice” commented Michael Harten, dean of academics at The Woodstock Academy. As Burns fine-tunes her own teaching she shares what she has learned with her colleagues. She has proven herself an integral part of The Academy’s teaching community by leading workshops and sessions on educational technology for faculty. Her colleagues frequently turn to her for advice and she responds with patient guidance.
While Katie Burns has many admirable qualities, it is her kindness that has resonated profoundly with her students and colleagues. Kindness has been a theme for Burns, and is a characteristic she models with her life.
Singleton underscored the value of kindness at The Academy saying “kindness is one of the most important behaviors that we can model and instill in our students. And no one does it better than Ms. Burns.”
Early in October, Burns advocated for kindness while she addressed students and parents at The Woodstock Academy’s Academic Convocation. Being true to her teacher’s heart, Burns did not waste the opportunity to give the audience a practical way to spread kindness. She paused her speech and prompted the audience to write notes of appreciation. The auditorium was quiet as the audience thoughtfully scribbled kind words on the provided notecards. Some of those notes eventually found their way back to Academy faculty and staff.
“The Teacher of the Year program at The Academy recognizes a faculty member who really embodies our mission as a school. Katie is an example of what it means to prepare all our students for a lifetime of learning. She challenges students where they need to be challenged and models what it means to respect themselves and others” said head of school, Christopher Sandford.
Senior Clara Sigmund, who had Burns as a teacher, immediately described Burns as having a “big heart” but added that, “she taught me skills on how to be a better writer, obviously, but also how to stand up for other people.”
Mark Chuoke, Academy English and special education teacher, has spent many hours with Burns as a co-teacher in their joint classroom and recognizes that, “a big part of what you are teaching is yourself. You are teaching your content, English analysis and language, but, a lot of times, what impacts the kids is the personality of the teacher. Katie’s [personality] is very embracing, and it’s an effortless embracing.”
Katie Burns graduated from The Woodstock Academy in 2003 and was quickly welcomed back, first as a student teacher and then as a member of the English faculty.
Many Academy faculty, including several of her colleagues in the English department, remember having Burns as a student. English and social studies teacher, Susan Powers, remembers Burns’s diligence, “She was always ready to do the work- very reliable.” Now Powers looks to her former student to develop her own teaching skills in leading writing workshops and literary circles. “Katie is really good at that” said Powers, “I specifically visited her classroom so that I could see her technique.”
English teacher Richard Telford considers it a privilege to have had Katie as a student twice. Now Telford is delighted to have his former student as a colleague. “It is really a privilege as a teacher to see students with whom you interacted a great deal when they were students, return to Woodstock Academy, and to teaching more broadly” Telford said. “We are very fortunate to have her here.” Telford elaborated, “She is a welcoming presence and the value that she places on all students is so fitting to the mission that we have here.”