Education pioneers are remembered
Minnesota lost two of its special education pioneers in late 2017. Both were remembered by their colleagues near year’s end.
Mary Lee Enfield is remembered for her compassion for children with learning disabilities, and her tireless efforts to force changes in state education laws. Enfield died in September 2017 at age 85, after a long struggle with lymphedema and heart problems. Friends remembered her at Christmas time, because of her long tradition of holiday letters.
Enfield began her teaching career at Red Lake Indian Reservation, then at Bloomington Public Schools. She was one of the first teachers to focus on dyslexia. As an assistant principal and coordinator of special learning disabilities in Bloomington, she led the district in establishing standards for teaching students with dyslexia and other reading disabilities.
Enfield also lobbied for state mandates for special services for students, an inspiration for a federal mandate enacted in 1975. She was active for many years in the Minnesota Association for Children with Learning Disabilities.
Her 1976 doctoral thesis on multisensory learning led her to co-found Project Read, a tutorial for teaching students with dyslexia through touch and sound Districts nationwide consulted with her or adopted the approach in everyday classrooms, reducing the need to refer students for special education.
Enfield was president of the Minnesota Council for Exceptional Children and as a regent to Concordia College in Moorhead. She was Minnesota’s special educator of the year in 1972. She most recently lived in Fargo. She is survived by family members and many friends.
A second pioneer educator who was remembered in late 2017 was Charlie Burbach. Burbach died in October 2017 at 84 years of age and was a longtime St. Paul resident. A truck driver’s son who developed an appreciation for education as a teenager, Burbach would devote most of his St. Paul Public Schools career to students with disabilities.
Burbach grew up on the city’s West Side, and often skipped school as a child to travel with his truck driver father. His father couldn’t read or write, so son Charlie logged and did other paperwork. At age 15 he began playing tennis at St. Paul’s Baker Playground, with a group that valued learning. He went on to the University of Minnesota and a long career as an educator.
He dedicated his career to special education, first as a teacher at the now-closed Crowley school and later at Bridgeview as an administrator. Burbach is remember as someone beloved by students and parents. For several years he was also principal of the Saturn School of Tomorrow. In 1991 Burbach and other educators hosted then President George H.W. Bush during Bush’s visit to the school.
Burbach is survived by his wife, Cecelia, two sons, a daughter, a sister, seven grandchildren and a greatgrandchild. Services have been held.
Jerry a longtime self-advocate
Melvin Jerome Jerry was a longtime disability rights activist and self-advocate. Jerry, 65 of Maplewood, died in December 2017.
Jerry lived with cerebral palsy. He was a fixture at disability community rallies, and enjoyed attending events. He was active with different disability advocacy groups over the years.
Services have been held and Jerry was buried at Union Cemetery. He is survived by family and friends.