Ms. Burnside says bye to bunsen burners and beakers


Elise Chen, Staff Writer

As chemistry teacher Jeri Burnside writes on a transparency, the overhead projector hums insistently, letting out a blinding light. That was her first day, and at the time, she had no idea that it would be the beginning of her 34-year journey at Walnut. 

Originally, Burnside applied because she needed a job, but she found herself enjoying teaching more than she expected. She began with both biology and chemistry but later transitioned to completely teaching chemistry. 

“I like the chemistry. I couldn’t teach biology now because my degree in biology happened before we had the ability to synthesize DNA or sequence DNA,” Burnside said. “Those things have revolutionized how biology is done, and I’d have to go back to university and get a whole new degree to get caught up. But basic chemistry really hasn’t changed that much.”

Something that also hasn’t changed is how Burnside always enjoys the company of her students. Some of her favorite memories include chaperoning at proms, Disneyland Grad Nights, a field trip to Texas to view a total solar eclipse and a Hawaii trip with the Blue Thunder Marching Band.

“The interactions with the students and being able to spark an interest in students in the subject that you love, there’s a reward there,” Burnside said. “Always being surrounded by bright, enthusiastic young people whose whole lives are ahead of them makes me optimistic for the future of our planet.” 

Following her retirement, Burnside plans to take up traveling and camping, as well as exploring different hobbies and interests. 

“I’m looking forward to it. I will certainly miss the students. I’ll miss my colleagues. I’ll miss this place, but I don’t live far away,” Burnside said. “If I really miss it, I can always start subbing and go back to my roots.”