CBC Highlight Teacher Millie Burgess

February 1, 2023

Millie Burgess, who was born in Bermuda, is being highlighted by Canada’s CBC as “the first female teacher of African descent to teach in the Ontario school system.”

The CBC story says, “Millie Burgess says she spent much of her career relishing telling strangers she had 20 children and watching their jaws drop.

“Burgess, 99, wasn’t their mother. She was an elementary school teacher who considered the children she taught each year to be like her own, five days a week during school hours.

“Born in Bermuda, Burgess was the first female teacher of African descent to teach in the Ontario school system, according to the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s records, and may be the first Black woman in Canada to complete a teaching degree.

Millie Burgess [photo courtesy of Talia Ricci/CBC]:

Millie Burgess February 2023_1

“At first it was kind of scary, but I got over that,” said Burgess, who landed her first teaching job in Toronto in 1957 after completing her training in Ontario and teaching in Bermuda.

“Toronto didn’t have that many Black people,” she said.

“Burgess recalls the culture shock of starting to teach in downtown Toronto schools filled with children who were often newcomers and didn’t speak English, but who were mainly from European countries.

“She says she sometimes found it difficult launching a career in a country where she initially had almost no contact with people from her background.

“But she says it wasn’t the children who made it difficult, it was some of their parents.

“It didn’t seem to bother the kids …They responded to me just as if I was a regular teacher. I didn’t have any trouble with that, but some of the parents did … a lot of the parents,” she said.

You can read the full story here on CBC.

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