What do chocolate chip cookies, AP Calculus and a legendary coach have in common?
Did you know I was once a queen? True story.
Not prom queen or homecoming queen (I was in the court both times but never wore the crown) – I was queen of the 89’s. What does that mean exactly? I’ll tell you…
In my AP Calculus class at Trinity High School, you were allowed to skip homework assignments if you got a 90 or above on the weekly quiz. I CONSISTENTLY got an 89 on the quiz… seriously. It was uncanny. Maybe it was because I was quite a chatterbox in class (she moved my seat multiple times, and it never helped), but I would never quite crack the 90 mark unless it was on a big test. So, I was forced to do additional homework assignments each week. Thus I was dubbed queen of the 89’s. What kind of teacher would continue to inflict such horror on a second semester high school senior? One of the best teachers (and frankly people) I’ve ever known… Betty Kudrick.
We all have those teachers that stick out in our minds as memorable. And if you’re lucky, you have more than one. I know I do – and they’re all for different reasons. The one thing they all have in common: they always pushed me to do better and not settle for mediocre. And I never wanted to disappoint them.
Anyone who attended Trinity High School during her 40 years at the school knew Ms. Kudrick. Whether she was your math teacher or your coach or you were lucky enough to make her famous wall of photos or even been the recipient of her famous chocolate chip cookies, you were a lucky kid. I was fortunate enough to have her twice – Sophomore year for Algebra II/Trigonometry and Senior year for AP Calculus. I was also an athlete – so because I played soccer, basketball and softball (she coached soccer and softball in her early days at THS) I was lucky enough to make a few appearances on that famous wall of photos in her classroom. Ms. Kudrick wasn’t just any teacher though. She embodied Trinity’s slogan of Pride, Spirit, Tradition.
And there was never a student that she forgot. You didn’t have to be a multi-sport athlete or straight-A student to be part of her world. Any kid who walked the halls of that school was one of hers. And whether you graduated in 1974 or 2004, she remembered you.
Because my mom was an administrator at Trinity, I had a unique high school experience (unique is a euphemism for tortured). I knew all the teachers very well – and they knew me. Some of them had been there when my mom was a guidance counselor in the ’80’s – so they had seen me grow up. They knew they could push me a little harder than most kids, because they knew I would appreciate it in the long run. Ms. Kudrick was in that category. She had seen me running the halls of THS in my saddle shoes and Oshkosh overalls – then had me as a student as a bitchy teenager. Ms. Kudrick also exercised at my Dad’s gym downtown, so I had really never lost touch with her during my childhood. She could be seen on the sidelines of many of our soccer games – cheering especially hard for us as we won the Girls Soccer State Championship my senior year – the first one since the team she coached won in 1980. And you could always find her in her 2nd floor math classroom… just follow the smell of those freshly baked cookies… even after you graduated.
During my freshman year of college, I thought it would be a good idea to take Calculus II as an elective (I loved math even though it wasn’t my major). What I didn’t know was that my teacher spoke rather broken English and had written our textbook. Math was always something that came relatively easy to me, despite my propensity to get 89’s on Ms. Kudrick’s quizzes, so when I signed up for Calc 2 I thought it would be a comfortable class. I could not have been more wrong. Before I knew it the add/drop period had passed and I was stuck in the class. And there was not an 89 in sight… I would be lucky to pass the class. I called my mom in tears and during one of my many trips home during first semester freshman year (I was homesick), I went to visit my mom at school and went up to see Ms. Kudrick. I told her about my class and how frustrated I was – that none of it made sense and I was terrified of failing. And what did Ms. Kudrick do? She offered to tutor me. She told me to bring my books home with me next time and come to her classroom after school and she would go through it with me. So that’s what I did. And you know what? I wound up with an 82 in the class. It wasn’t an A or even an 89, but I passed and it didn’t drag my GPA down too badly. And I couldn’t have done it without her.
Ms. Kudrick retired in 2013, but her legend will always live on. Trinity truly lost another pillar of its community yesterday. It saddens me that the students there today and in the future will never truly know Ms. Kudrick. She, along with some of the other THS legends, made that place special and memorable. It is because of teachers like her that I can look back at my time as a Pioneer and be grateful that I chose to go to school there.
Rest in Peace, Ms. Kudrick. I hope that you and Mr. Gorski and Ms. Belushko will keep an eye on all of your favorite Pioneers and help guide us. I know I speak for all of your former students when I say that you will forever have a place in my heart.