Our History

  • Our Name's History
    Katherine Van Buskirk
  • Name
    Van Buskirk
  • Age
    School established in 1957
  • Location
    Tucson, AZ
  • Grades
    Pre-K through 5
  • Mascot
    Bear
  • Slogan
    Soy un oso poderoso
  • Population
    387 (2015-2016 school year)
  • Special Curricula
    OMA Gold, Dual Language
Van Buskirk Elementary school, located at 725 E. Fair Street, opened in September 1957. It was built by W. F. Connelly Construction Co. at a cost of $345,641 and had 12 rooms, as well as a multipurpose room. The architect was Bernard J. Friedman. Since the original design and construction, 16 classrooms have been added at a cost of $294,413.

Katherine Van Buskirk, for whom the school was named, entered the school system in 1920. She was born in Manistee, Michigan, where she received her high school and normal training school education. In 1931, she received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Arizona.

Ms. Van Buskirk was a veteran of 50 consecutive years as an active educator, and upon her arrival here, had 21 years of teaching experience. Her first teaching assignment was at the Rincon School (not in District 1), a one-room schoolhouse in the desert, east of Tucson. She then taught at another small school outside the district, and in 1922, taught at Vail Community School east of Tucson. There her school room and living quarters were in an old Southern Pacific Railroad boxcar. She taught at Sunnyside School for five years and then joined District 1 to teach at Davis. After 12 years there, she was made principal of Davis. She is credited with starting the first nature study classes in the school system.

From 1945 until retirement in 1949, she was principal of Jefferson Park School. The year following her retirement, she ran for County Superintendent of Schools as a write-in candidate on the Republican ticket, but was defeated.

She was a past president of the Pima County Teachers Association and the Tucson Teachers Association. She died on March 3, 1958-- a few days short of her 79th birthday.

In a March 19, 1958 account in the Arizona Daily Star, Jesus Rico had this to say about Ms. Van Buskirk: “Miss Van Buskirk was a firm believer of the old disciplinary school. As a key-dangling principal who could wield a 15-inch paddle just as easily as she could talk about the mating habits of the king snake, she won the hearts of the roughest and toughest youngsters that went to Davis Elementary School.”

The first principal of Van Buskirk Elementary School was Mrs. Elizabeth J. Treadwell. Our current principal is Mr. Roberto Thompson.

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