Faculty Spotlight: Mr. Vincent Burns

Father Gabriel Richard High School teachers are dedicated and caring, and bring unique approaches and techniques to their classrooms. They all share the common mission to help form the next generation of Disciples of Christ and prepare our students for their futures. Faculty Spotlights are an opportunity to learn a bit more about our outstanding faculty. This is the fourth spotlight in the series.

Education: University of Notre Dame, B.S, M.Ed

Teaches: Physics

Advises: Robotics Club “The Byting Irish”

“The mind must not be cultivated at the expense of the heart.”

Mr. Vincent Burns recalls that the Holy Cross brothers who taught him in high school often echoed this motto of their founder, Blessed Basil Anthony Moreau. Now, the teacher has incorporated the statement into his own philosophy of education. When he heard about FGR as he was completing his master’s degree through Notre Dame’s ACE program in 2016, he knew he wanted to teach here because he could see that the integration of mind and heart is “very intentionally part of the school’s mission.”

The Notre Dame alum loves teaching physics, and he believes it can be one of the most accessible subjects, if taught well. While he allows that there’s certainly a microscopic element to the discipline, he insists that physics is a very visual science, so it can “have a lower entry point” than other areas of study. In the labs he conducts, Mr. Burns takes full advantage of physics’ visibility in order to spark wonder in his students and get them “to naturally ask questions about the world.”

The teacher also believes that physics is an integral part of an education because it’s “a relatively simple model that can explain a lot of the underlying principles that drive what we see.” Though he believes that “physics is a very easy class to teach poorly” he insists that, if taught well, “it’s got a high ceiling.”

Mr. Burns’ favorite part of teaching is when he can get his students to marvel at what they’re learning. Recently, he brought in a Van de Graaff generator to deepen his students’ understanding of electricity. He explains that the class has “been doing forces and momentum, and there is a point at which that becomes stale, so it’s good to have this switch up so that all of a sudden there are bolts of electricity shooting across the classroom.”

Another of Mr. Burns’ favorite parts of teaching is when he gets to see his students “connect physics to their own interests in ways I don’t anticipate.” This often happens during his sports analysis homework assignment, “where students take a sport and analyze it with all the physics that we’ve already learned.” Last year, some students chose surfing as their sport, and Mr. Burns loved seeing them invest themselves in the project and in doing so, go above and beyond the homework requirements.

Mr. Burns is also the faculty advisor for the Robotics Club. He recounted that in Spring 2019, which was the club’s first year, his students won their second competition, which led them to win overall at a FIRST competition. Mr. Burns shared that robotics teams seldom win overall until their third year as a team at the earliest, and so his “shock and the students’ excitement at winning was my favorite moment as a teacher.”

Teachers like Mr. Burns commit themselves wholeheartedly to building up the Body of Christ through the intellectual and spiritual formation of their students. They understand and model the Catholic Intellectual Tradition for their students and are a vital component to outstanding student achievement at Father Gabriel Richard High School.

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