Teaching English at Castleton for 28 years

Professor Burnham Holmes poses with a collection of his books.

 English professor Burnham Holmes has been teaching and writing all his life, but he has never stayed in the same place longer than he has been working at Vermont State University Castleton. 

He comes originally from Poultney and has been an English professor at Castleton University since 1996. 

But he has taught all around the world. 

Holmes said he knew he was a writer ever since the fourth grade, when his teacher told him “Why Burnham, I think you are a writer.” 

“In 8th grade, I wrote a book report on “Run Silent, Run Deep” by Edward Beach, because I enjoyed that book a lot and my father told me you are a real writer, which meant everything to me,” Holmes said with a smile. 

He continued with writing throughout his life, and has written over a dozen books and has been featured in many others. The favorite book he has written and published is “One Shining Moment,” a book about relatively normal people who have done amazing things. 

“I was taking care of my son and writing at the same time. I wanted to write about normal people who have a big shining moment,” Holmes said. 

But he doesn’t only write books. Holmes has also produced two different plays that have been performed! One was supposed to be put on at Castleton University, by due to COVID they had to cancel. Another is running currently in Poultney. 

“Three plays around 10 minutes, see them on stage, seeing actors saying your words, it was emotional. I cried through all three shows while watching them,” Holmes said. 

Along with his amazing writing career, he has been all over Europe teaching everywhere. He has taught in Stockholm, London, Paris, Germany. It seems anywhere you can think of, Holmes has probably been there. 

By far his favorite place in Europe was London, he said. He enjoyed teaching in all the countries saying there’s a different type of respect shown to teachers there than there is in America. 

“London was always a surprise; you could walk down the street and you would see these blue signs that represented a famous place or something of significance happened there. Another moment was when I was in the British Library and I sat under a noble prize that belonged to Tony Morrison. I ended up working with her for four years,” Holmes said. 

Holmes said he has never shown much care for a luxury lifestyle knowing that being a writer and teaching comes with its own set of struggles, but that never changed his mind on what he wanted to do. 

“You only write for a few people. Everything I’ve written has always been for someone. Currently I am writing a memoir on my life for my son. You learn so much about yourself when thinking back on your life trying to put this together and remembering everything,” Holmes said. 

He continues to show passion in the classroom and loves to help his students thrive, even when he isn’t himself, because of the joy teaching brings him. 

“I love students. We’ve gone through a lot of turmoil together. The sense of possibility young people have is thrilling. I’ve enjoyed the privilege of having this job, day in and day out trying to leave a little piece of myself to my students,” he said.

And the students love him back.

“He is awesome, a super understanding guy, and really shows how much he cares for his student’s work. He truly wants all his students to succeed,” Castleton Student Gretel Seman said. 

He leads his lectures by having students share their work and hoping they will be proud of their creations, like he is of them. 

“He is a great teacher. If you really focus and listen to his lectures you’ll understand and see how much effort he puts into his classroom environment,” former Student Gavin Hartford said. 

Students say his classroom energy is incomparable to anyone else’s because he truly makes every student feel extremely special and heard. He wants students to embrace the joy of writing and be proud of their work.

“He really cares about his student’s writing and loves to hear them share their writing, He is a great teacher,” Castleton Student Brian Demoya said. 

From his writing to his teaching, Burnham Holmes has left a mark on this world, and his books will be forever treasured by many. And he plans to keep writing, forever. 

“I love writing because it is something I can do up until the end. I can do this for the rest of my life, and I love it,” Holmes said. 

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