May 26, 2005: Headlines: Secondary Edcuation: Paly Voice: Kay Van Der Burg went to West Africa in the Peace Corps

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Peace Corps Library: Secondary Education: January 23, 2005: Index: PCOL Exclusive: Secondary Education : May 26, 2005: Headlines: Secondary Edcuation: Paly Voice: Kay Van Der Burg went to West Africa in the Peace Corps

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Kay Van Der Burg went to West Africa in the Peace Corps

Kay Van Der Burg went to West Africa in the Peace Corps

Kay Van Der Burg went to West Africa in the Peace Corps

Spend a minute with VDB

Posted Thu May 26, 12:12:50 PDT 2005
By Kate Huey of Verde Magazine
Robin McNulty
Kay Van Der Burg (aka Vandy or VDB) is one of those teachers people will bring up to break the awkward silence during a conversation with an old friend at their 10 year high school reunion. At least I know that's what I'll be doing.

I met Vandy at the end of my freshman year. I had lost the sheet that my mom had filled out for me about who I wanted as my 10th-12th grade advisor. Forced to make a quick decision, I put VDB down as my first choice because her bio was cool. It was something along the lines of – and I'm paraphrasing here – "Hi, I'm Kay Van Der Burg. I like books, reading biographies, bright colors, doing crafts and I know a lot about soccer and basketball because I have two sons."Little did I know the amount of entertainment she would provide for me and my classmates during our high school careers.

My AP English Verdeers decided we shouldn't keep the humor to ourselves so it's my job to share it with you. Enjoy!

For our interview I decided to take Vandy to Starbucks so she could experience a Chai Tea Latte for the first time.

V: So what was it like growing up in the Midwest? Did you live near a cornfield?

VDB: (laughing) What a good question to ask. I did not live on a farm but I sure had a lot of friends who lived on a farm. We were the city people which means, you know, population of 350. (laughing) Actually my son wrote his college essay on a cow walking into our backyard.

V: Which is your favorite AP period, 3rd or 6th?

VDB: I can't answer that. Really, they're so different. But I love both of them, I really love both of them.

V: What's your favorite memory from a class?

VDB: I have so many.

V: Top five.

VDB: Gordon [Chien, Senior] singing "Fly Me to the Moon"… um ... You know what I think it really is, it's when I walk into the class and there's such a feeling of togetherness. You know, Gordon calls it "the happiest place on earth." It's just a really comfortable, uplifting — most of the time — place I like to be with people I really love. So I don't know, it's every day.

V: What's the best way you ever wasted a class period?

VDB: The birthday party [that my 6th period threw for me].

V: Tell me about it. I heard a little bit, like that Sharon Cooper did a dance.

VDB: Yes, Sharon did a dance … with a bad word.

V: With a bad word?

VDB:(chuckling) She put everything she had into this four letter word. (laughing) Yeah, I liked everything. Gordon did some stuff, oh the Campanile editors…we get Daniel Sheehan to come join us so that he can do his little dance.

V: How is Daniel's dance?

VDB: Daniel's dance is unchoreographed. It is a lot of shaking of head and body with a big smile on his face. (laughing) So it's very funny. And Amanda [Ogus, senior] does it too. Amanda is more … together than the guys are.

V: I know you like to play April Fool's pranks on your classes. What is your favorite prank that you've played?

VDB: I think the best one, because I could see the results at the time, was the time when I devised an essay question that was absolutely impossible. I loved that, I loved that, because you could start to smell the sweat. (laughing) I mean people just really panicked for about 10 minutes. Because I've always had classes where kids really want to achieve and so they are trying to do something impossible that they think they should probably be able to answer, not realizing everyone else is in the same situation. And then when I say April Fool's and they go nuts, that is just so amusing to me. (a lot of laughing) I also told someone, a colleague, to call Mr. Bear and gave him the number to the zoo, and then he called and asked for Mr. Bear and the person told them "you know someone is playing an April Fool's joke on you, Mr. Bear is the animal here." (laughing) Or Mr. Fox works. I take great humor in seeing other people kind of wiggle.

V: What's your favorite memory from college?

VDB: Oh I loved college. I was a real student. I loved studying and reading. I graduated in four years but I graduated with about an extra year of credit. (laughs) I took every course in sight! You see I graduated with three majors and two minors.

V: What were your majors?

VDB: English, theology and social studies. So when we talk about all this stuff [in class] I can draw from so many areas. Anyway, I was an activist in college … I dedicated virtually all of my time … [I] went to Africa in the Peace Corps

V: What was that like?

VDB: I loved it. I went to West Africa which even today is in a time warp. It's so … not technological, so … um … basic. And I was in maternal health care which was like basically "boil your water" there are such things as Germans, I mean germs (bursts into laughter for five minutes) oh….(more laughing) …that was so politically incorrect…those are probably the jokes that are funniest, too, the misstatements that are politically incorrect because it's stuff that you'd never say ordinarily.

V: You have a dog, right?

VDB: I have two.

V: What are their names?

VDB: Packer and Max. They steal my heart! I love my dogs! One had a motherthat was a golden retriever and a father who was a standard poodle. And the other one is a Bichon Frise.

V: Didn't you bring them to your classes sometimes?

VDB: I used to … like your sophomore year. I'm not sure why I don't anymore … I guess it's because I didn't have Max then. It was Packer that I brought and now that he has a companion I don't feel the need to give him so much socialization. They do very well together. Packer went through the five stages of grief initially, denial and anger you know, because we got another dog. (chuckles) He did ... he really did. It took him about a year and now he loves [Max], I thought it might not ever happen. It was just like getting a new baby. Really, it really was. But now they play together all the time. Probably what changed Packer's attitude was Max taught him dirty tricks, that Packer never thought of doing. Max will bury food and then he forgets where he puts it but he knows about where it is so he digs up the whole garden. He learned how to dig under the gates and showed Packer how to dig holes so now they can get out.

V: Do they do that a lot?

VDB: Not anymore. We've learned. The neighbors used to get really mad …(starts laughing) Our mailman threatened not to deliver mail anymore. (laughing harder) So I sent the mailman supervisor a picture of Packer and said "Would this dog hurt anyone?" (still laughing)

V: What else would you like to tell the world about yourself?

VDB: Well ... I could tell you I was an assistant principal of JLS for a couple years when I first moved here and I was principal of Hoover School for eight years. And then I decided that I wanted to teach … and it was just the best decision.

V: How long have you been teaching at Paly for?

VDB: Since 1996 … so what is that? Nine years? Wow … almost the longest job I've ever had then. Actually I've taught at every level. I taught kindergarten even. I've taught at junior high … and college, I've taught at college too. So, I actually like high school best. I love the humor of the kids. I think what really is the fun part for me is when they catch me off-guard with remarks that are very funny. You know? It's just that sense of humor, and I've always appreciated that. And fortunately my two boys have that same sense of humor … which is why also I'm probably more tolerant of things that, um, are maybe less tolerable to other people because I have that perspective. You know? Do you know what I'm talking about when I say that?

V: Like the sarcastic things people say in class?

VDB: Yeah, it doesn't surprise me because I've heard it before. They think it's brand new. (chuckles)

This story originally appeared in Verde Magazine on May 31, 2005.

When this story was posted in May 2005, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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Story Source: Paly Voice

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