Burlington HS History & English Teacher Stories

In this video, I share stories about English and History teachers I had known, as well as those with whom I took classes. Most are positive stories. Only one is decidedly NOT.

All my English teachers are dead now. Most lived into their 90s. The older I get, the more I appreciate what they taught me. I miss them.




L. Lucille White passed away quietly at home on Aug. 20, 2014.

Lucille was born in Ry[e]gate on March 23, 1922. During her lifetime, Lucille achieved several degrees in education. She was a longtime member of Delta Kappa Gamma.

Lucille taught and was head of the English Department at Burlington High School for 48 years.

Lucille and her longtime friend, Mille Aikens (predeceased), spent many years traveling to several countries and all of the US states. They returned to their favorite county, England, every summer.

…Lucille will be laid to rest at a graveside service, by her brother, Dwight, and attended by family and friends, at Blue Mountain Cemetery in Ry[e]gate on Saturday, Aug. 30, 2014, at 10 a.m…”

Published by The Burlington Free Press on Aug. 23, 2014.


Mildred Elizabeth Akins passed away on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2010, peacefully in her own home, at the age of 98. Ms. Akins was a beloved and well-respected educator in Burlington for over 50 years. She was born in Ticonderoga, N.Y. on Nov. 5, 1911, the daughter of David Akins and Sarah Thatcher Akins. Her father was Chief Engineer of the steamboat Ticonderoga. The family had long ties to Vermont and New York State, including their ancestor, Seth Warner, a Green Mountain Boy.

Ms. Akins was a member of the Burlington High School Class of 1928 and graduated With Honors from the University of Vermont with her Bachelor’s of Arts in 1932, and her Master’s of Education in 1962.

Ms. Akins, “Millie” and “Mimi” to her family and many friends, pursued a love of teaching, learning, and mentoring as a teacher and scholar throughout her life. She taught school during the height of the Great Depression in Jeffersonville and later in Wallingford, Vt., Bristol, R.I. and North Plainfield, N.J., before joining the History Department as a faculty member at Burlington High School. Ms. Akins was a John Hay Fellow at Northwestern University and Colorado State University, and also studied and researched at the University of Maine at Orono and Indiana University. She was a member of Alpha Xi Delta Sorority, Mortar Board, and Honorary Society Delta Kappa Gamma.

Ms. Akins was an inspiring and caring teacher to decades of Burlington High School students, served as a Department and school administrator, as well as being a well[-]loved mentor to many young teachers and staff.

She retired in 1984, after more than five decades of teaching. Ms. Akins is remembered for her intellectual curiosity, love of history and literature, and ability to spark greater knowledge and appreciation of language, writing, and reading among young people. Ms. Akins’ legacy and love of learning, education, and service also live on through her family. Multiple generations of Akins’ family and extended family now work in education and public service careers with diverse organizations including Duke University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Harvard University, Wellesley College, Colchester Schools, A Better Chance, College Summit, the United States Air Force, the Humane Society of the United States, the Environment Protection Agency, the United States Government, and others.

An avid reader of history, current affairs, and fiction throughout her life, Ms. Akins often read several books each week. She also had a great love of travel and with her dear friend and fellow teacher, L. Lucille White, enjoyed many special trips to Scotland and England, Europe, China, Japan, the Holy Land and Jordan, Hawaii, and around the United States, beginning in the 1930s. Each time, she learned as much as she could about different parts of the world and enjoyed sharing her books, photographs, and learning with others.

She was also a wonderful cook and baker, and family and friends especially enjoyed her special birthday cakes and holiday fudge, each year. Ms. Akins enjoyed being with her family and friends at the family’s former camp, at Thayer’s Bay on Lake Champlain, and in other places with loved ones, including North Carolina, Washington, D.C., Germany, and Switzerland.

Ms. Akins is especially remembered for her kindness and compassion, sense of humor, interest in others, love of animals, enjoyment of beautiful places, and love for her family and friends…

Burial will follow at Resurrection Park Cemetery…”

Published by The Burlington Free Press from Jan. 23 to Jan. 24, 2010.

Joan Aichroth:

New Brunswick, NJ to William M. and France (Elder) Nulton on June 21, 1930. She lived happily with her parents and siblings, dividing her time between Homeland Farm in Middlebush, NJ, Highland Park, NJ and the “Jersey Shore”.

Joan graduated from Douglass College of Rutgers University and married Donald T. Aichroth shortly afterward. Together they raised their delightful children. As a Marine Corps family, they lived at various bases in the United States, later moving to Vermont where they lived in Burlington, Shelburne and Charlotte.

In Burlington Joan began her teaching career in earnest; first at Manpower Training and then as an English teacher at Burlington High School, a career she embraced wholeheartedly for twenty years. In 1990 she earned a graduate degree at St. Michael’s College in Colchester, VT.

Joan was a former member of Delta Kappa Gamma, The Daughters of the American Revolution and a board member of Home Base, Inc., a non-profit organization serving the disabled. She was an insatiable reader, loved swimming, flowers and, most of all, her wonderful family and friends.

…She was predeceased by her extraordinary husband Donald and their beloved children Andrew and Julie.

A private burial service will be held in the near future.”

Published by The Burlington Free Press from Mar. 5 to Mar. 7, 2021.

Dorothy Elmer:

EAST MIDDLEBURY — Dorothy A. Elmer, 77, of East Middlebury, died unexpectedly at her home on July 2, 2005.

She was born in Bennington on Nov.28, 1927, the daughter of the late Harold and Ruth (Young) Elmer.

As a graduate of the University of Vermont with two degrees in education and English literature, she taught at the high school level until her retirement in 1989. Having achieved three Fulbright Awards early in her career, Dorothy also spent several years teaching in Germany.

Dorothy was an active member of the East Middlebury Methodist Church, as organist and choir director, and was involved in a host of other activities, with great interest in the arts for all seasons.

She is survived by her brother, Donald Elmer and his wife Barbara of Newtown, Conn; a niece Sara Elmer of Boston; and a nephew, Todd Elmer of Santa Fe, N.M.

A memorial service will be held on Wednesday, July 13, at 11 a.m. at the Middlebury United Methodist Church in Middlebury. The Rev. Jill Robinson will officiate. Interment will follow in Weybridge Cemetery. Arrangements are entrusted to the Sanderson Funeral Home in Middlebury, under the direction of Diane Bryant…”

Published by Bennington Banner on Jul. 9, 2005.

Margaret M. O’Brien:

Shelburne – Feisty, independent, and fiercely proud of her Irish heritage, Margaret Mary O’Brien passed away on 24 Sept. at the age of 94 at the Arbors in Shelburne. Her nephews Alex and Peter were with her. She was born to John and Jane (Van Sickle) O’Brien on 5/24/27 in Burlington, VT, and grew up here, attending Cathedral HS and Trinity College.

She always had an adventurous spirit and took flying lessons in her early twenties. Many years later after she retired, we tried to talk her into skydiving, but she said she was happy right where she was.

Although she never married, there were two loves in her life – teaching and theater. She taught English and theater at Burlington HS for 28 years, retiring in 1990. Her interest in theater drew her to St. Michael’s Playhouse as a college freshman, where she met and worked with Donald and Joanne Rathgeb. Over the years they made the Playhouse a nationally recognized Equity theater and worked with actors Bela Lugosi, Jon Voight, Henry Gibson, Kenneth Kimmins, and many others.

After she retired from teaching, she packed her bags and moved to Ireland for a year. She took an apartment in Dublin and spent the next year touring the Emerald Isle meeting distant relatives, making friends, and stopping by a pub or two.

In recent years, her health began to fail and she developed dementia. It was sad to see her faculties diminish over the last few months, but the spark in her eyes never left…

…In keeping with Margaret’s wishes, there will be no calling hours or formal services. A celebration of her life will be held later this fall…”

Posted online on September 29, 2021. Published in Burlington Free Press

James (Jim) Farley Martin:

Georgia – James Farley (Jim) Martin, 84, of Georgia, Vermont, passed away on June 23rd after a long battle with cancer.

Jim was born on December 8, 1936 to Helen and Francis Martin in Burlington, Vermont. He was a star athlete at Cathedral High School, where in his four years he amassed 13 letters, including four in his senior year when he played football, basketball, baseball and track. He was the first athlete in school history to earn four letters in one year. In that senior year, he won the state mile run. After graduating in 1954, he spent three years in the Army and traveled through Europe, stationed mostly in Heidelberg, Germany. He went on to study History at St. Michael’s College, graduating with a Bachelor’s in 1961 and then earning a Master’s in History from the University of Vermont in 1966.

Through graduate school, he coached football at Rice High School. After graduation, he began teaching Social Studies at Burlington High School and remained there for 30 years, retiring in 1995. In 1997, he was enshrined into the Rice High School Athletic Hall of Fame, joining his brother Bert.

Jim married Monique Renaud in 1967, and soon after, they had two boys, Michel (Mike) and David (Dave). They moved to Georgia in 1967 after buying a former sheep farm just outside of Georgia Plain on the Georgia Middle Road. For many years, as a hobby, he raised beef cattle, pigs, and sheep. In 1981, Jim and Monique built a new house there, using wood from the property. Jim coached his sons Little League Baseball team. He became President of the Georgia Town Beach Association.

After retiring in 1995, Jim continued to teach Drivers Education part-time. It was common for Jim to be recognized in public by his former students. As a new hobby in the mid 2000s, again taking advantage of the property, he began tapping trees for sap, eventually building a maple sugaring operation involving 2,500 trees.

In late 2011, he was diagnosed with mesothelioma and began what would become an almost 10 year battle. Until the last two years, he was able to run his sugaring operation. Right up to his final few weeks, he would enjoy getting out to Rice High School…”

…Published by The Burlington Free Press from Jun. 27 to Jun. 29, 2021.

James (Jim) Donoghue:

Age: 67 • Colchester

James D. Donoghue, longtime teacher and coach, 67, of Colchester died at his home Jan. 23, 2016, surrounded by his family.

Donoghue taught social studies and English at Burlington High School for 37 years until his retirement in June 2011. He served as Student Council advisor and oversaw numerous programs, including taking students to Project Close-Up in Washington DC and a multi-year student exchange program with Yaroslavl, Russia. He served as the elected president of the Burlington teachers union and as a union negotiator. Donoghue was a longtime official at high school track and field meets.

Earlier, Donoghue taught and was a dorm parent at the former Pine Ridge School in Williston and at Marlborough Academy in Massachusetts. He also taught as an adjunct professor for the University of Vermont in the early 2000s.

Donoghue coached several youth swim teams, including for the Lake Champlain Swim Club, Burlington Tennis Club, the City of Winooski, Quarry Hill Club and the City of Vergennes. He also founded and coached Twin Oaks Swim Team and later founded Green Mountain Aquatics. Over the decades, he was a mentor and friend to countless athletes, coaches, and families.

He headed the St. Michael’s College Men’s Swim Team three seasons between 1984-87. Donoghue returned to head both squads (men and women) for an additional 12 seasons from 1998 until his retirement following the 2009-10 season. Donoghue’s teams accrued 92 dual-meet victories during his time at Saint Michael’s. His 15-year tenure leading the men and 12 years guiding the women was the longest head coaching stint in the histories of either program. His 44 wins with the men remain a program mark, and 14 event records set by his swimmers and divers remain school standards.

Donoghue also was well known across northern Vermont for teaching Red Cross swim lessons and lifesaving certification courses for several decades and spent summers running waterfronts at camps Kinya, Hochelega and Mah-Kee-Nac.

He was born Oct. 9, 1948, in Colchester the son of John and Rosemary (Lynch) Donoghue and the family soon moved to South Burlington, where he attended city schools.

He graduated from Rice Memorial High School (1966) and St. Michael’s College (1970). He earned master’s degrees in education and history from the University of Vermont…

…Besides his parents, Donoghue was predeceased by his brother, John W. Donoghue of Burlington; and his brother-in-law, John Collins of South Burlington.

Jim was brilliant, kind, brave, and generous. He positively touched thousands of lives through word, deed, and the occasional sarcastic comment….

Published by The Burlington Free Press on Jan. 27, 2016.”

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