Help and Understanding
“It was Miss Burdick who opened my eyes to the world of poetry, took the monotony out of grammar, and awakened me to the value of literary creativity,” Grant Drake, a former student, wrote of Eleanor Burdick when the Ridgefield High School English teacher retired in 1963. Burdick had taught at the school for 43 years, longer than almost any staff member in the school’s century of existence.
Eleanor Larissa Burdick was born in Massachusetts in 1897 and grew up in the town of Monson. She attended Colby College, where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa in 1920.
That year, she came to Ridgefield to teach at the old Hamilton High School on Bailey Avenue. Over her 43-year career, she taught English, history and math, chaired the English Department, directed the Drama Club, and inspired innumerable students. Back in the days when the senior class each year took a trip to Washington, D.C., Burdick organized the journey and went on many of them.
Her career spanned the tenures of nine superintendents, one of whom, Philip Pitruzzello, said of her: “That such power and humanity reside in one person is reserved to the few; that Eleanor Burdick chose to teach youth is a magnificent expression of God-given talents.”
After her retirement, she returned to her native Massachusetts, where she was active in church work. She died in 1979 at the age of 81.
The staff of the Class of 1955 yearbook dedicated that year’s Caudatowan to Burdick, citing her “indefatigable help to our class and friendly understanding of our problems.”
The dedication added, “During her teaching years at Ridgefield High School, she has become a symbol of guidance to all. In her association with the students, she has never failed in her patience and encouragement to everyone.”
That same year, The Ridgefield Press also paid tribute to her, observing “Her chief satisfaction in teaching is derived from the young people themselves. The idea of helping them get a start and the satisfaction of seeing them accomplish something are her chief pleasures in teaching.”
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