The Ranch Review

Otay Loses Family Member

Science+teacher+Angela+Burks+with+her+horse+Eowyn
Science teacher Angela Burks with her horse Eowyn

Science teacher Angela Burks with her horse Eowyn

Photo Courtesy of Lindsey Sistar

Photo Courtesy of Lindsey Sistar

Science teacher Angela Burks with her horse Eowyn

Tyler Vu, Sports Editior

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On Tuesday, July 25, Otay lost a member of the Mustang family. Angela Burks, a veteran educator and biology teacher died at the age of 58. A dedicated and kind teacher, according to her peers and students, Burks influenced the landscape in terms of education and impacted many lives at the Ranch.

Burks worked in the Sweetwater Union High School District for almost 35 years, teaching at schools such as Hilltop and Sweetwater High School. Burks paved the way for the Science Department in the school district. One of the inaugural Otay science teachers, some of the science teachers were mentored by Mrs. Burks

Burks was overall a very gentle and kind-hearted person. She was an environmental enthusiast and overall animal-lover. She owned two dogs and was fascinated with horses. According to her peers, one of her favorite hobbies was horse riding. Former students such as ORHS Senior, Tyler Ocampo recalled her as a person who would never harm anything or anyone.

“What I really liked about Mrs. Burks was how nice she was, never really wanted to be mean to anybody,” said Ocampo. “She basically couldn’t hurt a fly,”

Students were not the only ones who witnessed Burks’s tenderness. One of Burks’s closest friends on campus, Mrs. Jorgina Hall, ORHS Biology teacher, admired Burks’s willingness to help others. Whether it was aiding students, giving advice to faculty members or going out of her way to save animals, Burks was seen providing assistance with a smile on her face. Hall recalls one of many Burks’s acts of unselfishness.

“[Burks] actually adopted a bird found outside of Mr. McBride’s room,” said Hall. “She vowed to take care of it until a shelter was found or someone else can adopt it. But she ended up keeping it and continued to nurture it”

ORHS Human Anatomy teacher, Nora Glasco, was another colleague that Burks had knew from Sweetwater High School. Glasco praises Burks for her courteous demeanor toward others and animals, and her “willingness to help others to come up with solutions”

“Mrs. Burks went out of her way to make you feel welcome here at Otay Ranch and in the Science Department,” said Glasco. “A very warm, caring person. She did an amazing job at being in charge of the science department, along with Mrs. Hall. They worked so well together and always made sure items got address within the science department,”

The most valuable thing that Glasco saw from Burks that has influenced the way she teaches was her passion for science and the commitment to her students.

“She truly loved teaching science,” said Glasco. “Mrs. Burks always wanted the best for her students. She was always looking at ways to peak student’s interest in this field.”

Another former student, ORHS Senior, Dayna Pham, felt that Burks made Biology very memorable. Pham enjoyed Biology due to the learning environment Burks established, so much she decided to challenge herself and take AP Biology.

“I like how enthusiastic she was about Biology and teaching it,” said Pham. “She definitely cared about the students.”

Younger teachers such as biology and chemistry teacher Juan Contreras remembered his early years at our school. Contreras remembered his first year was overwhelming. At the time, Burks was a district provider for Contreras. When he sought for guidance and support, Burks was always willing to help me inside and outside the classroom. Contreras credit Burks for making him who he is today.

“I remember doing a fundraiser and feeling overwhelmed,” said Contreras. “She told me to forget about the curriculum for now and she helped me count all the coins and bills we raised. It was nice to see that side of her and showing me that she wasn’t that not everything was about curriculum but that she actually cared.”

When it came to teaching, Burks was Hall’s earliest mentors here at Otay. Hall and Burks shared “similar work ethics as well as philosophies in education.” Hall is amazed at how much the Otay science department has grown over the past years and the impact they made on the educational system. The department began with four science teachers, Mrs. Burks, Mrs. Hall, Mrs. Galvante, and Mrs. Bryant; and has blossomed since the opening of Otay. All these teachers believed that they can influence the lives the student and improve the Science Department of the Sweetwater Union High District.

Hall will not only continue the legacy of Mrs. Burks, but also these former teachers who valued the education of the youth.

“She’s definitely impacted and shaped how I am as a teacher,” said Hall. “Essentially, she lives through my work.”

When asked about the valuable lessons she learned from Mrs. Burks, Hall chuckled and said there were so many. The last time Hall saw her, was in a facility meeting where they both complimented each other and Hall thanking Burks for mentoring. However, Hall remembers something Burks had told her that really described the kind of character Burk’s was.

“Since this was going to be her last year teaching and eventually retiring after the school year ended,” Hall said. “She told me to enjoy the students as much as possible and not to be concerned about the little things that don’t really matter in the end”

 

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