Inquisitiveness encouraged by Craig Middle School science teacher

Craig Middle School Science Teacher Ashlee McBurnett encourages her students to be inquisitive.
Amanda McDermott/Courtesy Photo
Background Name: Ashlee McBurnett School: Craig Middle School Grade taught: Eight grade Number of years teaching: 3 years Subjects/classes you teach: science This is McBurnett’s third year teaching primary school. Prior to teaching in Moffat County she taught at a community college in Texas.

Editor’s Note: This is the second article in an ongoing series that seeks to honor and understand more about educators in Moffat County.

CRAIG — Eighth-grade science students in Craig are encouraged by their teacher, Ashlee McBurnett, to ask lots of questions.

McBurnett is an inquisitive person, herself, and she hopes that quality is among the many traits she instills in the students she teaches in her science classes at CMS.

“I was that annoying child that always wanted to know ‘why.’ I still am,” McBurnett said.

Two professors from graduate school encouraged her to pursue a career in education.

“Their dedication to academics spilled over to their students. They instilled skills I utilize every day. I can only hope to instill the same in my students,” she said.

Craig Press recently spoke to McBurnett about her approach to teaching and her philosophy of education,.

Craig Press: If your greatest supporter were in the room with us today, what five words would he or she use to describe you as a person, a teacher or a colleague?
Ashlee McBurnett: I had to ask some people to help me with this one. Dedicated, honest, an encourager or cheerleader, reliable with compassion for all living things.

CP: In your experience, what is the most challenging part of your role as an educator, and how have you met that challenge?
AM: The most challenging part of being an educator is that you receive an entire new class every semester/year. You have a whole new set of personalities. You spend the whole year getting to know the students so that you can meet them where they are. Just when you and the students come to this excellent mutual agreement, it is time for them to move on to the next grade. This challenge allows, and forces, me to grow as an educator. As Brad Pitt’s character said in Moneyball, “Adapt or die”.

CP: What have you read recently that led you to change your approach to your work?
AM: At CMS, we were given “The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed,” by Jessica Lahey, to read over the summer. While I do not have children, the book offers great tools that can translate over into the classroom. My favorites are the tips for teaching students how to gauge their own progress: expectations need to be crystal clear (modeling); using exemplars for the students to compare their work with when they claim they are finished. If there are mistakes or they have failed at the task, take the time to show them how to remedy the situation (make it a teachable moment); acknowledge/praise effort, while also supporting future improvement.  Nothing groundbreaking there, but great reminders.

CP: How are you involved in the community outside school?
AM: Like education, community involvement is important to me. The saying, “It takes a village” doesn’t exist on accident. Communities — that includes schools — thrive when everyone comes together. Community involvement can mean a lot of different things. For me, I believe if I have the time and resources, I should be utilizing them to support the community; that can often turn out to mean I overcommitted myself. Currently, I am co-president of Moffat County Education Association, a member of Yampa Valley Young Professionals, Parrot Heads, as well as a volunteer for Freedom Hooves.

CP: If a visitor came to your classroom or office and took a photo, what would they see in that photo?
AM: What I lack in height, I make up for in personality.

CP: What is one fun fact about you?
AM: I am a certified yoga instructor, and I started a yoga blog this summer.

CP: Is there anything else you’d like readers to know?
AM: That education needs their support.

Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or

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