Meet Carlton Senior Living spotlight resident, Harriett Burt – Harriett was born in 1940 in East Oakland, California to Harold and Jean Burt. Her father attended Chico State University and was a school principal in Ashland, California but he felt he could not raise his family well on such an income. He ultimately decided to enlist in the U.S. Army but was denied due to colorblindness and instead became a welder for the shipyards in Oakland. In 1947, the Burt’s welcomed a son and both children were raised in El Cerrito. Harriett was considered to be very bright in her youth but chose to focus on activities other than her studies. At El Cerrito High School, she was the Student Body Officer and Editor of the school newspaper. After graduating high school, Harriett was persuaded to attend Cal Berkeley as was tradition in her family for three generations. After deciding to become a teacher, she transferred to Fresno State University and graduated in 1962 with a degree in Social Sciences.
Harriett was interviewed and hired as a teacher at Martinez Junior High to replace Mary Gillespie, an established teacher of 42 years and “an icon” in the district. She enjoyed the challenge of teaching and worked on classroom control using positive reinforcement. Harriett taught in Martinez from 1962 to 1980 and became President of the Teacher’s Association during the time period when Carlton resident John Searles was Superintendent of the district. Harriett also began writing for the Martinez News-Gazette in 1969 and continued to write during the holidays and summers through the 1970s. During her final two years at the junior high school, she was hired as Vice Principal and, by her second year in the role, she was able to successfully teach classroom control after attending an Assertive Discipline workshop.
Rather than returning to teaching in the classroom, Harriett contacted Lee Canter, creator of the Assertive Discipline Program to discuss how she felt she could present and promote the program. Starting in 1980, Harriett spent the next 14 years traveling the country and throughout Canada promoting and teaching Assertive Discipline. She also worked as a full-time writer for the Martinez News-Gazette until 1990.
Harriet or “Ms. Martinez” as she has affectionately been called for years, is certainly a fixture in the community. Whether she is emceeing a local parade or coordinating events like Martinez Art Association‘s “Art in the Park,” Harriet continues to give back to the community. Taking on many different roles over time, she has also served on the City Council, was a member of the Parking Place Planning Commission, was the first female president of the Martinez Boys and Girls Club, and has been president of Martinez AAUW, Martinez Soroptimist Club and the Martinez Education Association. What’s more, Harriett has also volunteered with the Martinez Historical Society and the Contra Costa County History Center. We are very pleased to have such an esteemed member of the community as a resident of Carlton Senior Living Pleasant Hill.
View additional Resident Spotlight articles.
Written by Patrick Coleman