Frederick Community College’s (FCC) President Burmaster will retire at the end of July 2021 after 45 years in public education.
A Frederick native, Burmaster attended St. John’s Elementary and Governor Thomas Johnson Junior and Senior high schools.
As a music and theatre teacher in Madison, Wisconsin Burmaster began her public education career in 1976.
Throughout the course of her career, she has served as a teacher, district fine arts coordinator, middle school assistant principal, elementary school principal, high school principal, elected Wisconsin State Superintendent of Public Instruction, and community college president.
During her seven-year tenure at FCC, Burmaster has stuck to her mission of providing affordable, outstanding education and workforce development for a diverse Frederick County Community.
I spoke with Burmaster on a more personal level in an interview where she shared insight into how her early years helped pave the way for her to become a leader and a lifelong learner.
Youngest of multiple siblings, Burmaster grew up observing her older brothers and sisters. She expressed, “I understood from a young age that you learn from others.”
Burmaster expressed to me that she possessed “a fascination and curiosity with learning from everybody that she could at an early age.” A strong memory of this involved a woman who taught Burmaster how to sew as a young girl.
Burmaster’s mother was a musician and she taught her how to play the piano. She knew as a young girl that in order to get better at something one needed to take joy in the practice itself.
Throughout Burmaster’s career she didn’t plan anything out in terms of job titles or promotions. Rather, she viewed each role as “a new creative challenge.” Burmaster said, “I learned that satisfaction in learning came from trusting the process.”
Burmaster believes that her ability to lead came from being a music teacher. She views herself as “someone who can recognize talent and potential in others.”
Burmaster simply enjoys listening to other people’s stories. She said, “I enjoy asking questions at the right time that help another person to discover within themself who they truly are or what they truly want.”
Each lesson that Burmaster learned she carried over with her into every aspect of her life, including retirement.
Burmaster said, “I am just so excited to have a schedule that I can embark on a whole lot of new learning.” During our conversation Burmaster mentioned how eager she is to get back to practicing the piano, as she did in her early years.
Retirement will also give Burmaster more quality time with her family as she has six grandsons and a seventh on the way. Burmaster expressed, “I want to be able to be the grandma who can listen and who her grandchildren feel that they can ask any question to.”
Burmaster acknowledged that she couldn’t have been able to accomplish the vision of FCC if it were not for the support system of people around her. She said, “It is never about one person, never, it is about leadership facilitating teams of talented people coming together and empowering them.”
Burmaster emphasized how a Board of Trustees is the backbone of a college presidency, “I am very blessed to have had such a wonderful Board of Trustees who love FCC.”
She also expressed her gratitude to the FCC Senior Leadership Team. Burmaster said, “They are leaders who are so good at what they do and that’s why I feel that I can also move on because the college isn’t going to miss a beat.”
What I found to be the essence of Burmaster is her curiosity to learn. A true lifelong learner, Burmaster said, “I can’t wait to go back to school myself. When I’m learning, I feel alive.”