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Teacher Profile: Darla Burns, Third Grade

Third grade teacher Darla Burns has inspired students for 33 years at Pembroke Hill.

Andrew Mouzin

Third grade teacher Darla Burns has inspired students for 33 years at Pembroke Hill, and can affectionately remember the teacher that influenced her many years ago.

“My biggest influence in becoming a teacher was my American history teacher in high school, Mrs. Belton,” Darla said. “Every couple of weeks, she would dress up as a figure in American history, in the time period we were studying, and would stay in character the whole day. We would try and stump her. It became a challenge for us to try and find a fact that she didn’t know, and we couldn’t find one. Her genius was that while we were trying to stump her, we were learning and working together in the process. When we got to our tests, they were a piece of cake.”

Darla carries some of those same ideas and concepts into her third grade classroom with her Native American simulations. Students will pretend to live centuries ago in the Southwestern desert and learn how to survive. During their 14-15 days in this new world, students are challenged to endure the heat, learn about surrounding wildlife and hunting grounds, explore the uses of obsidian and more. “I will dress up as a chief and help them get started with their first locations on our fictional map,” she said. “They will get these creative obstacles and their imagination goes crazy in how to facilitate these challenges." 

For instance, they might come across an obsidian rock. What is it? They will have to do a little research on the rock and how the Native Americans used it, then decide if it's something they can use in the desert.

Darla previously taught in the West Platte, Blue Springs and Columbia School Districts, but made her home at Pembroke Hill. “At PHS, I’ve been allowed to really sink my teeth into the curriculum, instead of teaching from a textbook,” she explained. “I can focus more on themes and devise ways to integrate different subjects, such as math and science, into those themes.”

For example, during the Native American studies, her class participates in a classroom archaeological dig , where they work with coordinating graphs to identify where items are buried. “That’s a page in a math textbook!,” she exclaimed. “Rather than learning through a book, we can interact with math and science on a real world scale.”

Over the years, Darla said the technology used in the classroom has enhanced her teaching. “I can take a virtual tour of the Smithsonian with the children,” she said. “I can take them through a virtual cave and discuss stalactites and stalagmites without leaving the classroom. It’s truly amazing how far we’ve come with technology.” 

One of the more recent advancements that she’s tickled to provide her parents and students is the app SeeSaw. “Instead of waiting until the end of our unit to see the fruits of our labor, parents can see our progress as we go along and observe how their child is growing and learning throughout each project.”

Darla enjoys the interactions she has with her students each day, as well as the level of involvement of her classroom’s parents.

“It’s wonderful in the way they take pride in their child’s education, and take time out of their busy schedules to come and see what their child is learning,” Darla said. “It’s truly a partnership of parents, students and teacher, and it only enhances the whole experience. The children definitely feel loved by everyone.”