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Valley News Dispatch

Burrell teacher lauded as outstanding educator

Madasyn Czebiniak
| Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2018, 11:51 a.m.
Burrell Chemistry teacher Cathy Rudolph works with junior student Katrina Jirsa during a recent class at Burrell High School.
Louis B. Ruediger | Tribune-Review
Burrell Chemistry teacher Cathy Rudolph works with junior student Katrina Jirsa during a recent class at Burrell High School.
Burrell Chemistry teacher Cathy Rudolph is pictured with a caffeine molecule created by a former student. Rudolph, a teacher for 18 years, recently received a Outstanding Educator award from the University of Chicago.
Louis B. Ruediger | Tribune-Review
Burrell Chemistry teacher Cathy Rudolph is pictured with a caffeine molecule created by a former student. Rudolph, a teacher for 18 years, recently received a Outstanding Educator award from the University of Chicago.

Burrell High School teacher Catherine Rudolph helped Leandra Nealer, a freshman at the University of Chicago, discover her passion for chemistry.

So, when the university sent Nealer an e-mail about its Outstanding Educator Award that recognizes teachers who have inspired, challenged, and helped students, the Burrell High School graduate immediately thought of her former AP chemistry teacher.

“I just think she’s a really great teacher that goes out of her way for her students,” Nealer, 18, said. “She’s definitely done a lot for me, personally. She nominated me for a scholarship that I won. That’s been really helpful in paying for my college education.”

The university’s Outstanding Educator Award has been around for more than three decades. Teachers are nominated by first year students.

Nealer nominated Rudolph for the award earlier this year by submitting an online application that included a paragraph about why she was recommending her. She didn’t know Rudolph had been selected as a recipient until she was contacted by a Tribune-Review reporter.

“I’m immensely glad,” she said. “I hope that she goes on to inspire future students the same way that she did with me.”

Karen Schrum, the assistant vice president for ESA Communications & Outreach at the university, said more than 400 educators were nominated for the award this year. She said all educators nominated by their students are selected and recognized with the award.

Nealer graduated from Burrell High School in May.

She said she had always been interested in science, but Rudolph’s class is what inspired her to pursue chemistry, which she is majoring in at university. She is minoring in biology.

“I knew I wanted to go into a science, but previous chemistry classes hadn’t really captured my interest the way hers had,” Nealer said. “She was definitely the teacher that made me realize what a passion I had for it.”

Rudolph has been a teacher at Burrell High School for 18 years. She teaches general chemistry and AP chemistry.

She said she was honored that Nealer would take the time during her freshman year of college to nominate her for the award.

“I was totally blindsided,” Rudolph said. “As teachers, we spend so much time with the kids, and we work really hard to try to do meaningful things in our classroom. It’s just really nice to get the feedback from a graduate that what you did in your classroom mattered to them, and that it made a difference to them.”

Principal John Boylan said Rudolph is a leader in and out of the classroom, and she is always there for her students. He said she is very deserving of the award.

“Cathy is a teacher who always puts the student’s individual needs at the forefront,” he said. “She nurtures yet challenges her students at the same time and students respect her as a role model.

“In Cathy’s case, the thing that I think makes all of us so proud here is that it’s generated from a former student. Who knows best about a teacher’s ability to teach them than a student who’s been taught by them?”

Madasyn Czebiniak is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Madasyn at 724-226-4702, mczebiniak@tribweb.com, or via Twitter @maddyczebstrib.

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