Burbank Elementary: Planting the Seeds of Children Rising

By Children Rising | October 18, 2021

Former principal remembers the early days of Faith Network

Special Contribution by Roberta Teller, former principal at Burbank Elementary School

2021 marks the 20th anniversary of Children Rising! As we celebrate this very special milestone, we caught up with Roberta Teller, former principal at Luther Burbank Elementary School, and the very first school to partner with Faith Network of the East Bay. Ms. Teller recalls that first meeting with Randy Roth, and the seeds that grew into Children Rising.

Your support of Children Rising over the past 20 years has seen many school libraries – like the one at Burbank Elementary School – open their doors to the wonder of reading.

My first meeting with Randy Roth was two days after September 11, 2001, and it took place under incredible circumstances. I was so impressed by him, that this man was giving up his ministry to serve the children of Oakland. I was wowed and touched by his commitment.

We talked about what I felt the needs were for our school community. For me, it wasn’t only about the children, who, of course, are central to everything. It was also about how we serve the whole community, especially the teachers. I taught in Oakland for many years before I became a principal. I understood the stressors that the teachers were under every day.

READ: A History of Children Rising

The staff was demoralized. They didn’t feel like they were listened to. They really felt like they were out there alone. There was a lot of distrust. “Why should I trust you? Why should I trust Faith Network?” That was the atmosphere.

“Faith Network listened to us and then they acted upon what they heard…They listened and they came through. They showed up for the kids.” — Roberta Teller, former principal at Burbank Elementary School

Roberta Teller - former principal at Burbank Elementary School

Roberta Teller, former principal at Burbank Elementary School, put her faith in Faith Network.

At first it was like, “You’re going to get us tutors? Yeah, right. You’re going to get people to help us on the playground? Yeah, right.” But then suddenly tutors started showing up. And then there were people on the playground helping, they were consistent, and they were reliable. And then we started having nice little luncheons.

Our teachers started asking, “When’s Randy coming?” and “You know what else they can do…” They started looking for the Faith Network people to tell them what they wanted.

At the time, our library had been closed for a couple of years. We didn’t have anyone in there and Randy helped us get someone to work in the library. That was one of the important projects: to get that library alive, so kids could have books and things to read and books to take home.

We had faith in Faith Network. Faith Network listened to us and then they acted upon what they heard. They didn’t listen and then do what they wanted to do. They listened and they came through. They showed up for the kids.

YES, I CAN empower a child to build bridges to a better future!

 I want to learn more about online reading or math clinics to see if tutoring is right for me!

I want to help fund Children Rising tutoring and mentoring programs to empower more children this year!