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Alba Burke is a mother hen to her kindergarten students at Oyama Elementary. She feels very protective of her "pollitos bonitos,” or cute little chicks, as she guides them into the world of schooling and the English language.

Burke has her CLAD Certificate (Crosscultural, Language, and Academic Development) and has taught English Learners for 20 years in California and Arizona. She started teaching second grade, but has spent most of her career in first- grade and kindergarten classrooms.

“When I first moved here (2009), I taught sixth grade at Tolson,” she says. It was a shock, Burke admits with a smile. “Kindergarten is really my passion,” she explains. “I really like little kids,” Burke says, and she finds teaching them very fulfilling.

Burke recalls that it was her first principal who com- pared her to a mother hen—and so her nickname for her students, “pollitos bonitos,” was hatched.

Her chicks bring her pride and laughter. She says once when she was teaching about the silent e, she explained that the silent e cannot talk—it is mute.

“The next day I asked the students, ‘Do you re- member about the silent e?’ ” Burke says. One girl thought she had the answer: “Yes, she is blind.”

A few of Burke’s students get some extra help with reading through Literacy Connects' Reading Seed Program. One asked the tutor to help with something else, too—nominating their teacher.

“She always has a smile on her face, and I always try to do my best cause I’d hate to disappoint her if I don’t. She is a wonderful teacher,” according to one student.

Burke says former students will always be her pollitos bonitos. She loves it when they visit or email and when parents want their younger children to be in her class.

“When families want to come back to my class, that is the best assurance that I am doing my job.” Burke says. 

Teacher Fun Facts:

Hobbies: Attending church with her husband and tending her rose garden

Favorite Book: The Bible Favorite Subject in School: Math

Favorite Quote: “Do the right thing even when no one is watching.”

Hidden Talents: She can impress her students with her hula hoop skills. 

February 2017