By Noelle H. Lowery
Lauren Burgin tried leaving Marco Island and Florida behind, but the sunshine — and Tommie Barfield Elementary School — brought her back.
Her family moved to Marco Island when she was two years old. She went to TBE, Marco Island Charter Middle School and Lely High School. In fact, her parents, Tom and Nancy Mitchusson, still live on the island, and her brother, Kyle Mitchusson, is in his first year at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.
“I very much enjoyed growing up on the island,” says TBE’s newest first grade teacher. “Spending weekends on the boat or at the beach and barbecue’s with family and friends. I couldn’t imagine my childhood any different. However, I wanted nothing more than to leave, try something new.”
So, after graduating from high school, she headed off to The Ohio State University. It was not long after, though, that she found herself back home attending Florida Gulf Coast University. “That venture made me appreciate where I grew up, and I returned home. I missed the beach, ocean, sun — Ohio is grey…a lot — and most of all, my family,” she notes.
In her second year of teaching now, Burgin completed her student teaching experiences at Lely Elementary School and TBE, and she spent last year teaching first grade at Manatee Elementary School. She and her husband, Lee, are on the island now with their two terriers, Hurley and Sophie. Burgin also is back at TBE this year, and Coastal Breeze News sat down with her to find out what it is like to be home again.
Q: Why did you become a teacher, and why elementary school?
A: To be perfectly honest, my experiences at TBE and the wonderful teachers I had inspired me to become a teacher. My elementary days at TBE were some of my most memorable. I want to provide my students with similar experiences and to help them love school as I did. I feel it gets earlier and earlier in a child’s life that they begin to lose enthusiasm and school is no longer enjoyable for them.
Q: What is it like to be back at TBE?
A: It is like I never left! Well, except I am now a teacher. I am more than honored to be back. It is a wonderful feeling to be able to give back to the community I grew up in. TBE has always been a wonderful school with the most amazing staff. Everyone is so supportive. The curriculum has changed since I was a student, especially with the adoption of Common Core State Standards.
Q: Who has been the biggest influence in your life?
A: My parents. I don’t know what I would do without them. They have always been very supportive and helped guide me down the right path. Family is everything to me.
Q: If you could have dinner with anyone in history, who would you have dinner with and why?
A: This is a tough one. Mel FIsher; growing up in southern Florida and traveling to the Keys and Key West so often I have always been enthralled with the history. Mel Fisher was a dreamer, a visionary and a treasure hunter. His very successful history in treasure hunting is simply fascinating to me. Woody Hayes, the most legendary coach in Ohio State football history. As a coach at Ohio State, he led Ohio State’s football team for 28 seasons. I would love to sit and talk Ohio State football with him. Walt Disney, he built an empire out a cartoon drawing. He was also a major visionary. Ernest Hemingway, there is no denying he was a very interesting man. I love his pieces, one of my favorites being The Old Man and the Sea. He was very influential in 20th century fiction. I love to read.
Q: What three words best describe you, and why?
A: Caring, honest and responsible. I am very caring and want the best for those I love and care about. I am very honest and have never been able to tell a lie. My parents instilled in me that telling the truth is always better than telling a lie. I am very responsible. I was always the one to say, “That’s not a good idea.” If I have a responsibility, I fulfill it.
Q: What three words best describe your teaching style?
A: Engaging, structured and enthusiastic. I am very much about hands-on learning. I was kinesthetic as a learner. I am also very structured. I always want things to run smoothly and my children to know my expectations and how my classroom is run. I am very enthusiastic about learning. I still love to learn new things. I want my students to feel the same.
Q: What are your goals for your first year at TBE?
A: First and foremost, success for my students. Then, I would have to say to build relationships with my colleagues and technology integration.