By Rachael Rifkin
So many people have come forward to share their memories and reflections of Burroughs Elementary School that the Signal Tribune has decided to make “Burroughs Elementary staff share memories of their school that will soon close” a three- or four-parter. The tight-knit school opened in 1950 and is slated for closure at the end of the school year.
“I liked that it was a very family-, neighborhood-oriented school. I was there for 23 years, and I got to teach so many wonderful children from the neighborhood families. The whole school was really like a family. We had great support from the parents.
“When I first started in 1977, it was a kindergarten-through-third-grade school. It was called a multi-graded school. They were trying it as a pilot program. My first year I had a kindergarten (through) second grade class and the next couple of years I had a first-second-third grade class. We had many, many volunteers.
“I had the Reed family, who lived across from the school, and I had all three of the kids. Then the oldest one became my aide. I had all of [former 7th District Councilmember] Ray Grabinski’s kids. They just lived down the street and around the corner. They were all precious. Every time we took the class downtown to City Hall, Ray would show us around.
“I still have close contact with so many of the families. The teachers still get together and we exchange letters, cards and phone calls. We had many wonderful administrators. The staff that was there was there for a long time. Nobody wanted to leave.
“We had the reputation of being really hard workers. When you’re a small faculty, you have many more jobs than just teaching in the classroom. You have all the different events. Everybody took on different responsibilities. If you just wanted to be a classroom teacher, you didn’t want to be at Burroughs.
“When we had Founders Day, ladies would come that had taught ages and ages ago. These ladies were in their 70s and 80s. They always came back for Founders Day because Burroughs was just the nicest school. Each had to stand up and tell their memories. It’s really a school that so many people held dear. A small school is a nice place to be.”
Former Burroughs teacher Linda Alexander
“It is a sad thing that our little community is being dispersed. It’s been a safe and nurturing place for kids for many years. My favorite thing about Burroughs is that our tiny school is like a mini microcosm of all the good things Long Beach has to offer. We enjoy great diversity, and our kids are like a family. Because we are so small, our kids are a tightly knit group. They bring an enormous amount of acceptance, creativity, caring and cooperation to our little world.
“I love that over the years we have been on the receiving end of many kids who have not been able to thrive at other Long Beach schools. Because of our small size, remarkable kids and carin g teachers, we are able to reach out to those ‘lost’ kids in a way that some big schools just can’t. Our kids are so grounded on a foundation of togetherness that new students who may have had big behavior issues in the past just have nowhere to go with that at Burroughs. When mischievous kids realize they can’t get a rise out of anyone, they begin to settle into a more relaxed and productive way of being. You can actually watch their defenses fall away, and those students who have lived a life of simply trying to survive in the only way they know how, gradually are able to be kids again. For me, this is what makes Burroughs so special. What I will miss most is being a part of a place that truly makes a profound difference in the lives of so many!”
Fifth-grade teacher Dr. Karen Carmean-Mathieu
Facts about Burroughs
Motto: Together we make a difference
School Colors: Red, white, blue
We are John Burroughs students
With pride we wear red, blue and white
We have a lot opportunities
‘Cuz Burroughs is out of sight!
We follow all the rules at Burroughs
With friends we learn and have some fun.
We’re Burroughs, the school that’s #1!