It took her a few years to get there, but Sierra Trees ’08 has made the move toward working in education — and now has some experience at Burke’s under her belt! This past winter, she worked closely with Lower School theatre specialist Nancy Gold to stage the second-grade play, which dovetailed with her own love for the arts.
After high school at Cate School near Santa Barbara, Sierra graduated from Fordham University in New York with degrees in art history and theology, and she’s a dedicated painter as well. She initially took those talents to Los Angeles for a position at VICE Media, but has since moved back to San Francisco. Her time volunteering on the Burke’s campus helped her reconnect “with my passion for kids and teaching,” she says. This fall, she starts work at Town School for Boys!
What would you tell incoming kindergarten families about the journey ahead?From the first day I stepped onto the Burke’s campus to the day I graduated, I was a part of a community that’s unparalleled to any I have experienced since. Middle school is bound to be some of the more complicated years for young girls, and the support that Burke’s gives you is worth taking a chance on. Each year is going to go by faster than the last, so take your time in enjoying each one. Take advantage of the amazing faculty and life that Burke’s instills for your children. The support is there if you allow it to be. Some of my closest friends to this day are the ones I met in the Yellow Group back in 2000. Soak it in — these will be some amazing years, no doubt.
What is your favorite memory from Burke’s?My favorite memory was actually also one of the hardest ones I’ve had to endure. I lost my father my eighth-grade year at Burke’s. The morning after it happened, I told my family I wanted to go to school. I wanted to be with my peers and my teachers. The faculty decided to have a moment of silence that day. Sitting there, in that circle, looking around and seeing the girls who had been by my side since kindergarten, and the teachers who helped us get to where we were, made everything seem okay for just a moment. I look back at that moment, with that community, with immense gratitude. I felt so much love and support in that moment, so I hold onto that feeling most dearly.
What is something you learned at Burke’s that you still carry with you today?Burke’s taught me how crucial it is to build our peers up and not tear each other down. Being a part of a community like Burke’s, especially a strong female one, has taught me how much better we can be together.
How would you encourage Burke’s students and fellow alumnae to give back to Burke’s?I recently had the amazing experience of coming back to Burke’s. Although it was for professional reasons, I would encourage Burke’s students to return to campus. Seeing the same hallways and speaking to the same teachers who once taught me reminded me that this community is forever. Returning to the school, to the friends and teachers who I met there, made me remember how much that place meant to me. Seeing that the traditions still exist was heartwarming, reminding me that even though I may have left, the school continued to grow and is fostering some amazing kids today! Burke’s girls are the future!
What Burke’s experiences do you attribute to your personal or professional success?It was my Burke’s teachers who inspired me to want to get into education. The passion and care they brought to the classroom and out of it instilled a love of learning within me that has never faded. I think having that kind of an experience with education at such a young age will be the building blocks to any young girl’s future. If you had it to do all over again, your time at Burke’s and since, what might you do differently? I would take a moment to look around and take it in how lucky I was to be in a place like Burke’s. Surrounded by that kind of people I was surrounded by. The only regret I have is that I took my experience for granted.
Burke's mission is to educate, encourage and empower girls. Our school combines academic excellence with an appreciation for childhood so that students thrive as learners, develop a strong sense of self, contribute to community, and fulfill their potential, now and throughout life.