Students, staff remember Rodheim-Cutler

Alexa Rodheim-Cutler was many things to the Elk Grove nation. As an English teacher and water polo coach, she took on many challenges, but above all, she will be remembered as a fighter.

From her first days at Elk Grove, she was welcomed into the community.

“I first met her when we taught summer school… the summer before she started teaching here,” English teacher Alissa Prendergast said. “She was such a go-getter, so creative with all of her lessons.”

As an English teacher, Rodheim-Cutler took an aggressive approach to learning.

“She was committed to making sure every student, no matter his or her skill level, was successful,” English and Fine Arts Division Head Wendy Relich said. “She really made sure that kids learned and that they knew they had the ability to learn.”

Senior Bailey Murphy experienced this impact firsthand.

“She encouraged me to get on the AP track in English,” Murphy said. “Without that, I would probably have stayed in regular classes.”

Rodheim-Cutler went above and beyond in teaching her classes.

“She never was content to say ‘this lesson is fine,’” Relich said. “She always wanted to make lessons better, and by doing that, she made everybody around her better.”

To that end, she collaborated with her colleagues to make learning even better.

“She really set a tone of teachers working together to have an even more positive collective impact on students,” Principal Paul Kelly said.

Even in disagreement, this collaboration worked out for the better.

“She challenged us in ways that we all needed to be challenged,” Prendergast said. “We’d be at meetings, and we wouldn’t necessarily agree, but because we talked it through and bounced ideas off, what ended up in the end was always the best result for students.”

For students like sophomore April Rascon, this relationship stretched beyond the end of the period.

“She wasn’t only my English teacher. She was my best friend,” Rascon said. “We would have girl talks and sit on the floor with snacks and just talk forever.”

Her impact was felt even more outside the classroom.

“She was always a teacher you could count on to be willing to try something,” Kelly said.

Rodheim was always working at what was best for students and staff alike.

“Her contributions went across the board,” Relich said. “She was… this bundle of energy that was really committed to making everyone’s lives a lot better.”

For her water polo athletes, she especially went above and beyond.

“She was more than a coach, she was a mentor,” senior Alexis Chromy said. “She knew a lot about life and a lot about everything.”

Even in her own hours of need, Rodheim-Cutler was selfless.

“When I had my first baby, it happened right around the time she was first diagnosed with cancer,” Prendergast said. “She took the time to make a scrapbook by hand for my daughter… it’s one of the most cherished things I have from her.”

Prendergast keeps a myriad of newspaper articles and quotes related to Rodheim-Cutler posted in her classroom.

“Even though she’s not here, I keep [these] up to remind me of her, because I miss her,” Prendergast said. “She was… such [an] amazing person.”

Her spirit is alive and well all throughout the school.

“We’re always going to remember her fighting spirit and the fact that she just never gave up,” Kelly said. “I’m just going to miss her constant emphasis on what is right about what we do in this profession, and her constant desire to make that even better everyday.”

This spirit made planning her memorial that much more important, and many of the faculty did their part.

“Our coaches and sponsors were amazingly flexible to reschedule events and practices in order to make it possible for us to host the event,” Kelly said. “Our custodial and maintenance staff was amazing; people stayed late, and others came in early in order to get everything in order.”

For teachers especially, the event was meaningful.

“We had over 30 staff members volunteer to be here to help in some way… in addition to the staff members who were attendees,” Kelly said. “The amount of effort that went into that memorial is truly evidence of the impact that Mrs. Rodheim had on all of us here.”

For her students and players especially, the memories will last forever.

“I love absolutely everything about her,” Rascon said. “She is the most optimistic, spontaneous and independent person I have ever crossed paths with.”