Barbara Burgess

English Boot camp

My teaching philosophy is to determine what engages the students in learning and use whatever materials I can, inside and outside of the classroom to make that happen. I give my students a practical knowledge of what it takes to succeed in the world beyond academia while at the same helping them to succeed while still in school. I believe that every student can learn in a supportive and safe environment.

What My Former Students Say

"Ms. Burgess is one of the many human beings on the this planet that defines what a true teacher is. I had the honor of being her student when she was first starting in my district, and new teachers usually get the more... challenging classes. She kept her cool every time students would get out of hand and calmly handled the situations as a good teacher should. She taught by the book, but let the students express themselves through the writings. When I think of Ms. Burgess, I think of a teacher with heart. A good teacher is one who teaches from the heart, and I think that's when students will fully understand what they're learning. And she's just that. I truly felt that she wanted students to learn, to stay in school, that way they can become something great when they get older and hit the real world." -Kevin Ohashi Lopez

"You are one of the sweetest teachers I've ever had. Kind and flexible. Also understanding. plus you know your stuff. it just sucked that you were teaching in Vallejo where most students don't appreciate teachers that aren't stuck up. Shoot Vallejo students don't appreciate much of anything for that matte."-Chrissy Sierra Jones

Creative Writing Re-imagined

The following is an example of a poem I wrote many years ago. Recently, to commemorate the anniversary of the creation of the Vietnam War Memorial, I re-imagined the form the poem took. I have since used it to demonstrate to students that poetry can take many different forms.

Student Work Samples

The assignment: Create a Facebook page for one of the major characters in Romeo and Juliet using either poster board or a power point presentation. In this case, the student chose Tybalt because it was the name of her grandmother's cat. She was interested in Japanese Animation and drawing so I encouraged her to use those talents on her Facebook page. Elements of the assignment included taking a major scene in which the character appeared and rewriting it from Elizabethan English to Modern School Appropriate English which was to become the writing on the Facebook "wall." Students also were required to create a horoscope or color personality for their character. This student chose Tybalt's color personality to be black because he was a very dark character with no redeeming qualities that the student could find.

For this assignment students were assigned a comparison and contrast essay comparing Of Mice and Men with the movie What's Eating Gilbert Grape. The students were able to meet California State Content Standard 3.0: Literary Response and Analysis
Students read and respond to historically or culturally significant works of literature
that reflect and enhance their studies of history and social science. They conduct in depth analyses of recurrent patterns and themes.

For this assignment students specifically focused on standard 3.2 Analyze interactions between main and subordinate characters in a literary text [George and Lennie in Of Mice and Men and Gilbert and Arnie in the movie What's Eating Gilbert Grape] and explain the way those interactions affect the plot.

In “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck, George and Lennie, two friends, depend on each other to survive.  Lennie is mentally challenged causing many problems for his companion George. George is all that Lennie has left in his life. In “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” staring Johnny Depp as Gilbert and Leonardo DiCaprio as Arnie, two brothers also struggle together. Arnie is Gilbert’s younger brother. Arnie is also mentally challenged. Both stories share the same struggles, dependence on one and another to survive. George and Lennie have to continue to travel around for jobs due to Lennie’s mistakes. They finally settled down in Salinas Valley, California, Working at Tyler Ranch. Gilbert and Arnie live in a small town called Endora. Gilbert and Arnie both work at a local grocery store. Both stories show many similarities and many differences.

  “What’s eating Gilbert Grape,” written by John Hedges, is a modern interpretation of the novel “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck. In both stories Hedges and Steinbeck both have mentally challenged characters, Arnie and Lennie. Each of the characters has a companion, Lennie has George, and Arnie has his brother Gilbert. George and Gilbert are father figures for both Arnie and Lennie. Both stories revolve around the characters emotional and mental challenges with each other.  Gilbert and George both dream of being alone not having to deal with their companion. Arnie and Lennie both are mentally handicapped causing them to be reckless and to forget things. Arnie and Lennie depend on George and Gilbert to take care of them and watch them.

  George and Lennie have many struggles, along with Gilbert and Arnie. George and Gilbert dream to live alone without their family. They want to go out and travel and earn their own money and not have to take care of anyone but themselves. George dreams to save his money and go out and drink and play games. Gilbert dreams to travel and for his brother Arnie to not be autistic. Lennie and Gilbert are very uncontrollable. They have no boundaries and are reckless. Gilbert and George always need to watch their every move. Lennie and Arnie don’t mean to be reckless or the way they are.  They don’t know when to stop or what is wrong and what is right.

  While both stories show partnership, Lennie only has George. Arnie still has his older and younger sister along with Gilbert to look after him. George has no family from what we know. In both stories someone ends up dying. In “Of Mice and Men” Lennie’s aunt Clara had passed away leaving George to take care of Lennie. In “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” Arnie’s mother and father both have passed away.  Although Arnie still has his siblings, Lennie just has George causing more stress for George. While both George and Gilbert are the “Father” figures in the stories, Arnie still has others to depend on and to help where Lennie just has George.

  George and Lennie have many dreams they wish to accomplish. They dream to own a farm and for Lennie to tend the rabbits. Gilbert also has many dreams he wishes he to accomplish. Gilbert wants to run away and go see the world and for Arnie not to be mentally challenged. Gilbert and George’s dreams differ. George wants to use his money on alcohol and adult men games while Gilbert dreams to earn money and travel and live by himself. Lennie dreams to tend the multi-color rabbits. George dreams to leave Lennie, while Gilbert also dreams to leave Arnie.

  Each story has many similarities yet there are many differences. George ends up killing Lennie but Gilbert continues to stay with his brother. The location of the stories is also very different. “Of Mice and Men” takes place on Tyler Ranch located in Salinas Valley California. “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” Takes place in a low economic town called Endora. Endora’s local grocery store, where Gilbert and Arnie work, is going out of business due to the new Super Store. George and Gilbert both hate Lennie and Arnie’s condition. Gilbert never hits Arnie though, while George hits Lennie thinking being physical will make Lennie remember what he tells him.

  “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck and “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” written by John Hedges have many similarities from Lennie and Arnie both sharing the same mental condition to George and Gilbert wanting to be free of everyone. While the stories have some similarities they also have many differences. George ends up killing his best friend due to Lennie killing Curly’s wife but breaking her neck, while Gilbert stays with his brother throughout every mistake Arnie makes. Although in both stories the characters depend on one and another to survive, the Grape family still has each other. Both stories portray the struggles of dealing with a handicapped family member but also show the differences in the setting and attitudes of the characters.



Student Comprehension

From one of my student's Romeo and Juliet Act 1 Timeline: Romeo approaches Juliet and delivers one of the coolest pick up lines to ever come out of the 16th century "If I profane with my unworthiest hand This holy shrine, the gentle sin is this"