Press Release: Linda Burlak of Buxton School Wins 2017 Kapteyn Prize

June 22,2017

Sheffield, Mass. — Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation announced today that Linda Burlak, a science teacher and academic dean at Buxton School in Williamstown, Mass., has been awarded the ninth annual James C. Kapteyn Prize for excellence in teaching. She will receive a $10,000 award for study or travel to enrich her teaching, and the school will receive a $2,000 grant in her name. 

Currently in her 29th year at Buxton School, Burlak has taught biology and physics, algebra and geometry, and popular electives in marine science, astronomy, and nature writing. She has served as a soccer coach, dormitory parent, and college advisor; is a long-time member of the school's orchestra and chorus; and traveled with her students to the Grand Canyon region to explore geology and to the Florida Keys to study ocean life. 

“I teach because it gives me the chance to constantly learn—about myself, the larger world, and the children I work with,” Burlak wrote in a statement. “It provides the joy of sharing hairy Yeti crabs, quarks and gluons, walking motor proteins, the possibilities of life on Europa, and every other beautiful, weird, wonderful, logical, and illogical thing I can think of with my students.”

Burlak earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Carleton College and an M.S. in biochemistry, molecular and cell biology from Cornell. She was in her second year of a Ph.D. program in molecular biology when she realized she would prefer life in a classroom to life in a lab, and that teaching high school science would help keep her focused on big picture science rather than forcing her to specialize in a sub-discipline. 

Called a model teacher, generous mentor, and invaluable asset to the Buxton community, Burlak has in turn helped nurture the science careers of many former students, several of whom now teach at the high school and college level.

“Linda is recognized by all of her students at Buxton as an excellent and extremely devoted teacher, and one who continually looks for ways to engage her students in how they can have a more direct hand in their own education,” wrote Peter S. Smith, co-director of the school, in a letter nominating Burlak for the prize. 

Burlak will be honored at an event to be held in October. 

The James C. Kapteyn Endowment Fund was established at Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation in 2009 to honor the memory of beloved teacher Jamie Kapteyn, who over a 20-year career taught English and coached soccer and lacrosse at Deerfield Academy, the Williston Northampton School and Cushing Academy. The fund’s primary mission is to honor its namesake’s memory by recognizing and rewarding extraordinary educators. 

A list of previous Kapteyn Prize recipients can be found at www.berkshiretaconic.org/KapteynPrize





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