Boothbay Region High School is starting a new year with many new faces, but none will learn them all like guidance director Leanne Burnham.
Burnham was among several new hires over the summer by the Community School District School Committee and Superintendent’s office.
Burnham was born and raised in Maine, graduated from Monmouth Academy, and like many Maine high school seniors, Burnham decided she wanted to get as far away as possible. She enrolled at the University of Miami where she graduated a semester early with a bachelor of science degree in speech communication and psychology. She lived in Washington, D.C. for a while, working in government affairs before deciding to move back to Maine to work at Colby College in Waterville. Burnham worked full time while studying at University of Maine in Orono for her master’s degree in higher education with a focus on student development. After graduation, Burnham moved on to Kent's Hill School in Readfield, where she worked nearly 15 years.
“The majority of my time at Kent's Hill, I worked as a college counselor and was the director of college counseling for a time. I forayed into administration for a while, but I'm happy to be back working directly with students one on one and navigating the high school experience. That's what I enjoy most.”
Being from a small town in Maine, she purposefully chose to return to a small town to raise her three children. She also currently sits on the Regional School District 2 school board.
One on one work with students is an important part of the job, Burnham said, and it becomes much more authentic when not simply focusing on a certain section of the alphabet.
“… Here I'll really get to know every student and their interests, help them in setting goals, taking steps to achieve them and watching their progress through the time they're here.”
Burnham said she already enjoys working with guidance secretary Teresa Tess, who worked in the Boothbay Region Elementary School central office and knew many of the students from the time they were in kindergarten. It is especially nice that there is so much rich history in the area with students whose family lines go back generations, Burnham said.
BRHS opened Aug. 15 and classes did not start until Aug. 29, but Burnham had her office and desk set up ready to begin the school year three days before students could start knocking on her door – and they did.
“I met with students every day until school started and every day since school started.”
Her goal this year is learning every student’s name and face, and becoming acquainted with the future students see for themselves. One bit of wisdom Burnham said she would like to pass on to students as they figure out what comes next is to take advantage of the time they have in school and to do things they may never get to do later.
“I was much more successful when I took more than the standard courseload (at university) … At the time, I thought, 'Wow, I'll graduate early and get out into the workforce' … I wish that I had taken that last semester and just taken classes for fun … or studied abroad …”
That experience has led Burnham to guide students to make the most of their time no matter what they end up doing. It has also helped mold her guidance style when it comes to helping students find a good post-secondary opportunity.
“I've never really much been into the name, I just want to help a student find the right fit. It's really about helping students over the course of their time at BRHS develop a plan to achieve both their short and long term goals and allowing that plan to be fluid.”
Burnham said plans change, especially over the three sometimes long years between ninth and 12th grades. In a place like the Boothbay peninsula, where teachers and the wider community genuinely care about future generations, students are in a safe place to try new things and adjust their plans, said Burnham.
“When you leave here, whether you're going into the workforce or going into the military or going to your community college or four-year college or university, you have the tools to manage your time, organize yourself, know how to make the most of the opportunities that you're presented with. And we're still here if a couple years down the road that plan changes.”