Anthony Fountain and Alissa Burse

Recorded September 19, 2020 Archived September 19, 2020 38:20 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: mby020067


Alissa Burse (48) is interviewed by her father, Anthony "Tony" Fountain [no age given], about her career in education and how she is adjusting to life as a teacher during COVID.

Subject Log / Time Code

AB and AF discuss AB's children.
AF discusses the origins of AB's nickname "Edie" and AB's career as a teacher.
AB recalls her first experience in a classroom.
AB discusses virtual teaching and education during the time of COVID.
AF recalls his science teacher in the 5th grade, Mr. Boyd.
AF recalls a surprise he orchestrated for AB, resulting in the creation of the Alissa Burse Scholarship to support teachers.
AB and AF discuss traveling.


  • Anthony Fountain
  • Alissa Burse

Recording Location

Virtual Recording


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00:01 Start with your introduction.

00:04 Hello, my name is Tony Fountain. And today's date is Saturday September 19th, 2020. I'm here in Las Vegas, Nevada and I'll be talking with our older daughter Lisa.

00:19 Hello. I am Lisa Fountain. Burst. I am 48 years old. Today's date is Saturday September 19th, 2020. I am in Charlotte, North Carolina and I am participating with my dad, Tony.

00:38 Oh, and I forgot my age is 71 but I can forget because I'm 71.

00:51 Okay. Well, first of all, I'm just elated that we're having this opportunity to talk across country you doing? Okay? I'm doing pretty good. It's the weekend. We get a minute. I was Joe and Amaya.

01:13 Josiah is still getting used to the new digs since we've moved out and Amaya is doing great. She is enjoying the scenery just for the record. Do you recall why I started calling you Ed?

01:37 So I think I do but maybe not cuz you're probably have to so I thought it was because of Edith and was Lily Tomlin and she used to being a big rocking chair and talk about what she ate for lunch, like pickles and mustard cuz used as a little toddler used to sit in the big chair as opposed to those little chairs for children. And that's what Lily Tomlin did on that show. She was little Edith Ann. So that's why I didn't know that part. I didn't know I said, I'm really curious to hear some more information about how you're doing with your teaching in that career.

02:28 Tell me just how long have you been teaching and how did you get started in teaching?

02:36 So I used to start my my years from when I actually got certified but I was told know your year started when you started in a classroom. So basically I started with teaching with Upward Bound students. I'm so this is my 31st year in teaching and they needed more science teachers. Especially for Richland district one, which was probably more of a minority kind of setting, South Carolina, Columbia, South Carolina to South Carolina. So I was like, well sure I'll do it, but I've never talked before and they said no no problem. We'll have experienced teachers with you to guide you and it was almost like student teaching without student teaching. They just did not have enough until I earn money, but it came really easy to me.

03:33 I'm not sure what that is, but it came really easy to me. So I was just like, okay, let's do it. But then I went on I was majoring in biology and chemistry if I can interrupt I remember because you were going into pre-med as a little child. So you wanted to be a doctor and you know, you hit a couple of walls while you were trying to finish up and prepare for the test to get into medical school. Right? Right. The first time I didn't do well it was the 8-hour test. I didn't do well on the writing or the reading but I had just worked by three jobs and I was just studying in between but I didn't do really well. I wasn't well rested all of that, but then I had an opportunity to go to a program at Bowman Gray in West

04:33 Salem witches up part of Wake Forest and it was a medical program to get you ready for, you know taking the MCAT and also give you away into their post bacc program where they paid for it and what not. As long as you were in the top five and I was number three so there was like go take it again. So I took begin. All right. I like sword on the part where you had to write like the essay portion and I just slightly better probably a lot better but not where I thought I should be after they drilled us and all of that and they pulled me and they said we think you have dyslexia because we can ask you these questions and you can explain it more thoroughly than that. But if you're asking it doesn't show what you know, and I was like well and she was the dean of the minority students at the medical school.

05:33 What I was like, what do I do? And she's like what you got to figure out how to get around that and I don't really have an answer and I was like, okay, well the whole time out but she was like we have a slot for you for the Post BAC program. If you want to talk I just need you to do this and I was like, okay, but the whole time I kept feeling pool to teach mechanics. So I told Mama be mr. Where I know I can probably be take this test. So I think I'm supposed to be teaching and she was like No And I was like, I can't explain it. This is something that fooled me and no I'm never going to be able to make this money. I know I'm pretty sure I'm going to be worked to death, but I think that's what my calling is and it's crazy because I never wanted to ever be a teacher.

06:33 Definitely pulled me you were saying at one of the programs before you actually start it normal teaching Trio programs with Upward Bound and I done some teaching in Richland District 1 and still didn't all I had today were doing this new program where they were taking lateral entry students who never went to proper teaching education, but could be teachers cuz they knew their craft told me you got to take the nce, which is now the practice but it's the national teaching exam. You got to make a certain score and I was like, okay this it will which scientist do you want to take? I was like, I'll take them all out taking the MCAT. This is not you.

07:23 So I go in and there's a lot of other people saying oh, this is your first time you'll be back and I was like, okay, but I finished early on that one and it was really more essays than anything classic flying colors got a call from a principal at a school in Beaufort South Carolina at Battery Creek High School. And he said can you come interview and then he was like your higher so that's how it started started. So tell me if your first year of school was it what you expected the teaching I was already used to a certain kind of challenge in the classroom. I didn't realize I was taking over for a teacher who had a nervous breakdown.

08:10 So when I got there he goes there's a retired Marine who's going to be your sub for the week. And you just going to get acclimated. I was like, okay that doesn't sound good and I walked in the class and I see a group of girls in the back who were painting their toenails ic1 kids sleep on that station sleep so hard that he's drooling and a pregnant girl that was eating Burger King and his teacher comes flying in the classroom, but she's like you can't just shut up you're all stupid and going off on them and the pregnant girl like gets like 7 months pregnant and cussing her out and I was like,

08:53 What have I gotten myself into so I had to take a step back and I was like, all right. Imma do it. Let's do it. It took a lot of discipline. It took a lot of I'm not playing with you. I took a lot of calls home some of the houses I went to.

09:13 And then probably within the 45 months they sell in line.

09:20 We are good to go.

09:22 I'm so glad that you you got into teaching is as you and I have discussed and maybe this is some way to explain that force that pulls you in the teaching is a foursome. Some would say it's in your DNA because as you know, our family Legacy has a strong history and education of teaching and just to remind your great-grandmother francina Miriam Sharpe. She gave an inspiring High School graduation speech in 1906 titled elevation through education. And of course, she lived in Abbeville South Carolina the birthplace of the Confederacy.

10:08 And moreover her grandmother Jane Ramos young was born into slavery in 1834 on the ramage plantation in Edgefield South Carolina, and after the Emancipation During the Reconstruction. She became a teacher to teach other freed slaves and she taught the basics of in a reading and writing and arithmetic don't even call it arithmetic anymore, but she talked for years and she didn't have a college degree, but they needed people to teach people who have gained some education during slavery other freed slaves and then my mother your grandmother Miriam Miriam Sharpe founded she studied this Hampton Institute. Wanted to be a teacher.

10:59 He was given financial aid to attend Hampton Institute because she got it from the Pullman company. Her father was a Pullman Porter and he was killed in a train crash near Franklin, Pennsylvania 1924. So after his death appointment company-provided my mother and her siblings finances to go to college. She went to Hampton Institute. She graduated got back to Pittsburgh want to be a teacher but in 1939 the Pittsburgh Public Schools were not hiring black teachers. Wow. Yeah, and then the same thing happened with my father your grandfather more something. He wanted to be a history teacher.

11:44 And up he got his undergraduate degree at an HBCU another HBCU. This was in Lincoln University Jefferson City, Missouri, and then he went to the University of Pittsburgh to get his graduate degree is Masters in Education you finish that in 1941, but still the Pittsburgh Public Schools were not hiring black teachers. So he continued on his job as a janitor at the University of Pittsburgh. So that's part of that Legacy. It's in your blood. It's in your DNA. I did not know he wanted to be a history teacher. I thought he was into science.

12:27 This whole time until later. He got into science cuz you know, right his relatives my mother and her aunt convinced him to go to mortuary school, right. His a license to be a funeral director, but he kept his job as a janitor that he had two jobs as a janitor while he still operated as a funeral director history. Never knew it.

12:54 Let me ask you now as far as today's Life as a teacher right now with this covid-19 pandemic.

13:05 I ripped something. In fact, it was on NPR. It was an article about a an African-American woman who's a teacher and she has a child and she is now constrained to be teaching at home and there's some circumstances that are unique to that situation and I assume that you're dealing with the same circumstances, but I am well it's kind of school and home. So we're teaching virtual remote but in North Carolina will for our school district. They have us even though we're teaching remote. They want us in the school building teaching remote to remove the distractions. That would normally be at the house and this way they said we could not bring our children that we would have to figure out who's going to watch our kids. Like everybody else had to find out I was stood up to our our principles like if

14:05 Need to bring your child just make sure they're not, you know, interrupting your lesson. So a few days a week bring Josiah with me. There's there's other days where we just stay here and we do remote learning from here. I do more of the remote learning with him in the morning where I have AP Chemistry and anatomy and physiology. There's not as many students and they know him and they're used to him but that is a challenge cuz he's non-verbal and he requires more but he loves me and he loves it online. He just won a kahoot competition in math because he's dancing with it while they're called his name and I was like, okay you're so he he loves learning online.

15:05 My focus doing okay. Well, this is what we have to do. It is really challenging for the afternoon because my honors chemistry honors biology classes are like 34 35 36 and I don't have that to give to him. So I try to tag in Amaya or my husband Aaron, you know, can you do that? Because we've got a lot going on right here. Sometimes they can't they can't we just

15:36 That's got to be a real challenge in and knowing how active Joe is and you're having to keep up with him. I mean, he's what 18 years old now 18 the baby and he know how to eat. If you don't want to I have plenty more that I can move onto so you just you know, was there a time in your life where teacher made a difference for you and it either encourage you to just keep going and motivated you or they were saying that you couldn't do it and discourage you and so will why don't you try another track because I don't see that happening for you. So you were motivated to prove them wrong.

16:36 Well, as far as a teacher now, I'm thinking K through 12 and I really didn't have any teachers that became a barrier for me and impediment for my success. I did have a couple teachers that motivated being a positive sense for one. There was never forget. Mr. Boyd. Mr. Boy was my fifth grade science teacher and he asked all the students if they want to do some sort of a project and I said, I want to make a periscope.

17:10 And I went home and my father at all kind of tools down in our basement. So I may just Periscope out of the sections of plywood that I cut in a couple mirrors and I took it back there. I think must have weighed about 10 lb, but I took it to school. He was very impressed two blocks. So he was very happy and to see if he shows it all to the other teachers and then when I was in 9th grade in high school

17:46 It was a biology class this rain. I and she said if anyone wanted to do anything special for biology, this could be extra credit.

17:57 But we were working in this area where you're working with the embryos and eggs, and I asked my mother she knew a friend of hers that owned the farm and so they were you able to get fertilized eggs for me as they grew and grew and grew and again that was another have a milestone for me to be able to bring the learning experience in biology. So yes, they did yesterday. Did you hear what happened that I don't remember they did hatch. I do remember and they has two different times all within a few days, but they have two different times that we kept the eggs under a lamp.

18:57 As far as trying to be a good student in the force being a good student and getting good grades that was mandatory in our house. In fact my brothers and I would tell you that if you brought home a c that was like feeling nothing but a zombies. So yeah it pretty well School.

19:18 Felt like it was mandatory in our house for the most part. It's so I know you remember when there was a lot of busing going on and I was bust down to Bessemer. What were your feelings with all that was going on in that day.

19:45 Well, you know busing because of the distance that one has to go to school is one thing but busing to achieve integration, that's a whole nother thing and at that time was Bessemer in elementary or Middle School in the elementary school 5th grade in elementary school closer at hand Eastmont, right? So that was kind of a little bit of a bus you you know the way down at Turtle Creek I think in Braddock North Braddock

20:29 You know, you could walk to Eastmont elementary school, but then I thought you know, we've been fighting a course, you know, I was very active in the Civil Rights here and we've been trying to hit that, you know get better education for African American children. And so to sacrifice you being bussed, you know, that was a sacrifice that we would have to make like it because frankly, I don't think Bessemer was a better school than Eastmont. It was predominantly black school. So why would they do a black school right when you were in walking distance to the school that was already integrated and the other family. I think the conwell's worth braving the Eastmont Elementary School on my memory is not there.

21:29 Almost at her house or Garage on fire and then they moved away. I remember her snatching away from our teacher because she was going to dump our destiny. They're just every Friday and Orlando bit her before she could dump our desk and then she she ran and the teacher tried to grab her but she got her sweater. I remember getting in trouble, but then shortly after that. I remember hearing that their house caught on fire. I think your dog died in the fire and they moved the father and he had a beauty supply shop down the busing for integration around the country. There were failures with busing for integration, South Boston.

22:29 And there was national news where white people who work harassing the black students that were being bussed in the South Boston attacking them physically attacking them. So I guess you know, it had some sort of positive effect around the country in general, but there were there were sore spots they were places where it was not executed. We have a media center. I don't remember his last name last name is Ed.

23:07 But the media center at Rocky River High School is dedicated to former principal who did executed the right way and after it failed the first time in Charlotte, he told the students we have two students coming in and it end up I think just mean one after that, but he said you will not touch him. You will not harass him. If you do I will make sure you're expelled he personally chose all of his teacher to be on the same floor and even after high school, they they continue the relationship in and he ended up being his Postman and they would walk and talk. It's just like the best story and then after that it took off in Charlotte-Mecklenburg School System to the integration and everything. That was lit.

23:58 Out and learned about that. We first opened Rocky River 10 years ago and their challenges still in front of us as far as the lack of respect for teachers.

24:14 Do you remember that my retirement dinner in 2014 and I said I was going to dedicate my time to helping Public School teachers and then I surprise you and the Gathering.

24:30 Oh my God, how did that happen? I had no clue, but now I am I thought about it and one of the things that I wanted to do was to work our way into being able to provide financial assistance to Future teachers. And so at that dinner, I announced that we established the Eliza Fountain Burr scholarship for future teachers. And since then we've formed the nonprofit support America's teachers. We've already awarded as of this year 18 scholarships future a few current teachers, right and we've conducted teacher appreciation events for over 3000 teachers around the country when

25:30 Email are your parents going to school in there like old rock cupcake when you guys came and surprises at school and gave us $25 for free she a she still talking about that. I'm like you're my dad came to my school.

25:53 Well, it was a pleasure for us to do that then Lark and I up really enjoy being able to do that with the teachers. There was something like what was it 110 teachers in there as well.

26:06 That was awkward principal Turner. She's done an awesome job here. I'm a awesome job. So tell me looking back on your career 31 years. What advice would you give yourself if you were in your first year teaching?

26:37 I would tell myself just to stay at it. That way don't give up. I'm pretty much I don't see anything. I would change.

26:49 You brought us up and being persistent not giving up. If you can't do it one way do it a different way. You always taught us to think outside the box. So by the time I got into teaching and this is what I tell a lot of our new teachers number one don't look at it as your career. This is a mission field.

27:13 Number to think outside the box. There's a standard that you have to keep but that doesn't mean there's only one path that is so if you know a better way, I always tell my new science teacher if you have a better way to show us how to get to the goal.

27:29 Then do it. So my my younger self buy my first years though. I would say Seek to figure out outside the box learning so that it stays so that it sticks. Don't just do the here's your instruction do this now. Take your test because Hands-On and creativity and you don't have to just be in the classroom. Let's go outside the classroom us figure out just like you did bringing in eggs fertilized eggs. Like that would be my classroom. That's exactly how I love to run.

28:08 Just a thought getting off. The subject of Education just came to my mind a vision of when you were young girl being baptized at the church in Columbia, South Carolina.

28:26 You went swimming, but you always like grooming but I was not ready for the backstroke tell you why does this man have one wader boots in the baptismal pool?

28:43 Heroes Lima gets in there. The guy has only white Lima get to dip and that's what made him. Slip. Is that right and baptismal pool and I said, well she knows how to swim down in the Deep.

29:19 You have some real challenges. I remember talking to you about some of the challenges that you had when you went to Rocky River and the fact that they were forcing students to really didn't want to be in your advanced classes and you're not going to tell me a little bit more about that and another school being built and it was going to be the demographics for going to be predominantly white on the Eastside of Charlotte. Why on the westside they were closing a lot a lot of the predominant black schools down and just combining them and making them more heavily populated. So they force that when all this came out they said okay, we're going to redo the demographics for Rocky River and a force them to come there and those kids didn't want to be there then they forced them to actually get into the AP in the honors and they didn't want to do that. So I scaled back how it normally would go.

30:19 After I saw they wanted to fight and all this other thing but instead of writing them up. I just found them to a different science from and told him he was still required to learn it and know you're not getting out of class. And when we did that that's actually transition dust into a lot better learning atmosphere when they knew they were still going to be held accountable.

30:43 It will you know just for the record I recall you have been recognized at various levels is the outstanding teacher of the year and I think not only your dedication but your genuine concern for your students exemplified by that video that I got where you were getting your chemotherapy treatment and still conducting your class from that facility at Medical Facility via Skype. I mean that's dedication and you know, you're my hero for that, but I tell you what it got me ready for remote learning you were ready.

31:43 And my science department was ready. You always have to have a team we might be coming to a close. But let me just one more question that you said this about what you thought, you know, what's affirmative action because you are a big proponent of how you know more after America's got in the pit and everything like that. I know whenever I went to University of South Carolina, there was a good crop of us that were in our we have to be qualified, but we were admitted based on affirmative action. What do you how do you feel about that? Cuz some people say and steals other slots from people who were qualified.

32:27 Well, you know first of all the term.

32:36 What was it not the affirmative action?

32:41 That has a negative connotation to me. If anyone been given affirmative action, you go back to the history of this country where you know, why people were affirmed by giving the right to own slaves that's affirmative action. But these measures to try to equal the playing field particularly from the civil rights movement in the sixties and in coming forward, you can call him affirmative action. I just say we're looking for for justice.

33:19 At the University of Pittsburgh when I was there. There was a proximately 100 black students out of maybe fifteen thousand and we demonstrated we took over the computer center in and Pat are demands miss a week at 50 students who were classified as underprivileged or marginal Ronaldo's negative terms when you were doing that.

33:50 I was at times but I'm not going to go into that now. But anyways, so here we are now fast-forward over 50 years from then write the university. They have made strides but not large enough strides right now, you know with African Americans comprising about 12 to 13% of the population is only about 5% of the enrollment at Pitt or African-American students singing challenging the university to continue increasing that portion of African-American students brought in more students from Asia India and China those countries, but they still have a ways to go but yeah firm of action has a negative connotation to me.

34:50 I'm looking for justice not affirmative action. I'm looking for justice and I would like to say that was amazing to see phenomenals be the chancellor create that cool as what during the Sankofa in the homecoming extend. The apology of how Granddad was treated. That was a significant Milestone a break and wait for a minute here. You know, we only have a short time left. I was just curious, you know Lark and I we had the benefit of being able to travel basically around the world literally around the world. Is there some place in the world that you would like to travel to?

35:39 At what point? I did I really wanted to go to Japan.

35:50 I've always wanted to go to France, but I really wanted to go to Japan and I was going to be gone before I got sick. So I know I can't really fly to Long anymore. But that was that was going to be my dream, you know, I will continue to hope for the best that the your health will improve and at some point you will get to travel to France and Japan are stem cells might do it for me whenever I can get the medicine and Technology, you know, you just have to keep hoping and praying.

36:36 Well, that's about it. I don't know if you have any last comments statements. I am so grateful that you're my dad bright and you know, every girl has their dad is like on the pedal stool, but I mean who who can get anybody better? Like I thank you for all of the experiences that you had. I told the kids. I was like guys I can take you sailing out here. I've been sailing for a while. I mean, I'd have to brush up on it, but I'm pretty sure I got it and if you can rent them right out here, I'm just like you've always had me outside the box. I've never thought that I have to stay right here in this little pig like I thank you. Thank you.

37:23 And you're my hero and it's great for Dad to have a gyro daughter course. I love all my children, but you have a special place in my heart. I thank you Dad and I'll leave with this my Mantra, you know, everyone has a three things and my three mantras.

37:46 Is never stop learning right? Never stop learning?

37:51 And is Frederick Douglass would say in the African proverb Pray by moving your feet and then finally being that positive to the world is you and I say be a fountain not a drain. Okay. Love you, Eddie. Love you too, Dad. Thank you.