Katya Burton loves to spread the joy of language


Zoe Wildman, Highlander Editor

“Learning a language is so much fun, and teaching it is really fun as well,” said Katya Burton, a French teacher at Carlmont High School, who is in her 21st year of teaching at the school.

Although she studied French in high school, it was not until she reached college that she decided to study the language and the culture and the literature.

“I had a professor at Berkeley who read a French poem by Baudelaire in class that just changed my world. I just thought ‘I have to speak this language,’” said Burton.

To further her language skills and to experience French language immersion she participated in the UC study abroad program where she went to the University of Bordeaux for one year.

Burton said, “After going to France in college, I would go back almost every summer. I would do study programs to keep developing my language and immersion programs. I went to Quebec, I went to Africa, but always to a French-speaking place.”

Burton has branched off from the usual approach of teaching a language with a textbook, instead teaching through reading, speaking and listening to French.

“I just love being able to focus on hearing students talk about their own lives and their own interests. It is so easy to do that when learning a language… because we all like to talk about ourselves, our friends, and our interests and that’s the vocabulary that we are learning. I like when students learn to express themselves, and at the earlier levels it is really exciting to see students gaining some beginning proficiency,” said Burton.

Sophomore Cassidy Sobey said, “Madame Burton teaches differently than most language teachers. Her teaching strategy involves us reading French literature and teaching us grammar that goes along with the book that we are reading. She has really helped me improve my French.”

Junior Brian Palma said, “[Burton] is actually one of the nicest teachers at Carlmont and cares deeply about her students. She’s very passionate about the class she teaches and teaches it well.”

In mid-April, French exchange students will be arriving at Carlmont where they will live with host families for two weeks. This program has been going on for over 15 years.

The exchange program is a beneficial way for French students to improve their English and Carlmont students to improve their French.

Burton said, “We all learned a first language and it shouldn’t be impossible or stressful to learn a second language. Everybody should learn a second language because then you learn the culture and it opens up your horizons and you see other possibilities of ways to be and ways to think.”

When Burton is not teaching she enjoys life in San Francisco. She pursues interests such as yoga, gardening and reading; she also participates in a French language book club.