Sunday, October 24, 2010

John Trott

John Trott was my seventh grade teacher. I joke that, in his class, you didn’t have to learn math or English, but you did have to learn to identify birds. John banded birds and his students could help, if they passed a written exam. The exam was a page long, but all answers had to be spelled correctly.

“What does AOU stand for?”

“American Ornithologist’s Onion.”

It took me three tries to pass. John once commented that he thought people don’t change after the seventh grade. He may be right—I still can’t spell.

I am surprised how little of an Internet presence John has. He died in September 2000. I came to his class in 1960. I know this date because I have bird lists back until then. I was 14.

John was like no teacher I had ever had before. John was temperamental, unpredictable, gossipy, and an opera lover. Aside from learning about birds, we also made an extensive plant collection. Although I was not aware of it, this learning was hands-on and peer-mentored. John also read to us. He asked my parents’ permission for me to read an x-rated book, “The Big Sky,” about trappers in frontier South Dakota. Little did I know that I would grow up to teach in that state for almost 30 years. The point here is that John treated us seventh-graders as adults.


  1. I grew up in North Carolina and now live in Va, am taking Master Naturalist class. We were assigned task of doing a presentation on a Naturalist. I chose John Trott, so enjoyed finding your site when I googled him. I attended Burgundy Wildlife camp several times as a child and John was probably one of the 3 biggest influences in my life. What a great character and naturalist. Enjoyed your blog, and birding course website.

  2. John Trott was also my seventh grade teacher. It took me two times to pass the bird banding test you reference - made one mistake (misspelling?), so was able to take it the second time the next day. Trott was definitely temperamental and demanding of his students. I attended the Burgundy Wildlife Camp for several summers with a keen interest in botany. Botany was Trott's major at UNC Chapel Hill. He recommended Duke when I was applying to colleges, thinking of majoring in botany.