Students, parents honor Redmond Elementary teacher Burton | SLIDESHOW

Throughout a student’s career, there is often one teacher who stands out among the rest.

For many students who went through third/fourth grade Quest, a program for highly capable students at Redmond Elementary School (RES), that teacher is Marti Burton.

The 14-year Lake Washington School District (LWSD) teacher was honored Sunday in a celebration at the Old Redmond Schoolhouse Community Center that brought in about 300 past and present students and parents.

“It was absolutely fabulous,” said Burton.


The event was organized by parents of past and present students, with Ling Niu leading the effort. Niu, whose daughter went through Burton’s class a few years ago and whose son is currently in her class, got the idea to honor Burton after attending a party in Seattle during which the hostess had honored an individual in a similar fashion to actors and actresses receiving lifetime achievement awards at the Oscars or Golden Globes.

Niu wanted to bring this idea to the Eastside and the first name that came to mind was Burton’s.

“I couldn’t think of anyone else that I wanted to do this for,” Niu said.

When Niu approached other parents about this, she got enthusiastic responses and offers to help with the event.

“I thought it was a great idea,” said Kalpana Gilroy, whose children were Burton’s students during her early days with the district and are now a sophomore and senior in college.

However, when Niu approached Burton about doing this, Burton initially said no.

“I am not a person that likes to be in the limelight,” Burton said.

Eventually, Burton agreed and Niu got to work, taking up the other parents’ offers to help. The event featured students — current and former — singing, reading poetry and sharing their thoughts on Burton. In addition, Niu and the other parents interviewed past and present students, who shared their favorite memories of Burton in a video that played during Sunday’s event.

For Kevin Parker, who was in Burton’s first class as a first-grader in 2000 and a few years later when she switched to third/fourth grade, one of his favorite memories came after an argument broke out during a soccer game during recess. He said Burton would not solve the problems for them. Instead, she suggested the students rotate as referees so they could solve problems themselves. Parker, who is now a sophomore at Harvard University and home for the summer, said despite their young age, Burton treated her students like adults.


Burton, who lives in Kirkland, said she tries to teach her students independence and show them that they don’t always need to ask for help from adults. And watching the youngsters gain independence and become responsible and self sufficient is something Burton really enjoys as a teacher.

“I love helping people, and watching them grow and change is amazing,” she said.

Angie Christensen, who has a son who went through Burton’s class a few years ago and another son who is in her class currently, said that growth comes from challenging her students.

“She asks a lot of her students,” she said about Burton.

Part of this is also teaching parents how to step back and let their kids learn things themselves and realize that it’s OK to make mistakes.

“She was very much about the kids doing the work,” said Sue Zorn, noting that sometimes parents will help their child with a project or assignment to the point where they’re doing most of the work.

Zorn, whose daughter was in the same class as Parker, said it is better for kids to learn the lessons such as being responsible and managing their time early on rather than when they get to high school or college or enter the workforce.

She said Burton also cared about students as individuals.

Parker agreed, saying for Burton it was beyond the academics and all about the students as a whole and making sure they became well-rounded people.


In addition to touching students’ lives, Burton has also touched their parents’ and families’ lives.

Zorn said Burton never sugarcoated things and told things as they were, but in a positive way. Burton has also helped Zorn in finding somewhere to do volunteer work — which she does at RES despite the fact that her children are grown.

“(Burton’s) an inspiration to me, as well,” Zorn said.

Burton started with the district in 2000 as a first-grade teacher at Norman Rockwell Elementary School for a year before moving to Albert Einstein Elementary School to teach third/fourth grade Quest for six years. Burton moved to RES seven years ago, where she has been ever since. Before that, Burton taught in Colorado and her home state of Iowa, where she grew up in a town of 350 people.

Christensen was very involved in planning Sunday’s event and said at the heart, the celebration was about recognizing a teacher who goes above and beyond what’s required of her.

For Burton, the whole event and knowing how much went into it is emotional. Unable to hold back tears, she said she was very moved by it all. A stickler when it comes to writing thank you letters, she said she needs to write letters to all 300 people who planned, organized and attended the event.

But since she does not have everyone’s address, she said she wanted to tell them, “Thank you for sharing their children with me and their lives with me. There are not enough words to express my thankfulness.”

Burton added that because she, Niu and Christensen did not have people’s addresses, news about the event was spread through word of mouth and she wanted to apologize to those who did not know or were not invited to Sunday’s event.

“I want them to know that they were not overlooked,” she said. “But that because of circumstances out of our control, the formal invitation was not extended. I would have loved to have seen every one of my former (students).”

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