Seton Hill education program celebrates life of professor

The Seton Hill University (SHU) education faculty is honoring the legacy of Sondra Lettrich, former professor of education and program director of special education and inclusive education, who died Tuesday, Feb. 12 at age 72.

“Dr. Sondra Lettrich truly lived the values and dispositions of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton.  One of the many things I learned from her was to live your passion and be an active learner,” said Kathy Harris, assistant professor of education.

Lettrich served at SHU for 26 years in several positions and worked to create several SHU programs including the special education certificate, graduate programs in special education and inclusive programs and the graduate certificate in autism.

“During her academia career, she was a leader and visionary by designing and implementing the integrated program in elementary/special education for our undergraduate education students,” said Harris.

“Dr. Lettrich was an astounding woman. Not only did she add impressive, tangible things to Seton Hill’s Education department in the work of undergraduate and graduate programs, she was a living testament to the edifying impact that effective teachers can have on their students,” said Jessica Orlowski, a graduate of English education at SHU.

According to Harris, who worked closely with Lettrich in the education program, Lettrich was a passionate teacher and an inspiration to many education students.

“I came to know Dr. Lettrich through the numerous visits I’d make to her office, whether in a state of excitement because of a successful lesson plan or in a state of dismay over the pressures of my academics. I’ll never forget when Dr. Lettrich told us that we must show every student that we care; only then can we convey the academic content we are trying to teach,” said Orlowski.

Another education student recounted: “I remember when I was just starting out with my educational career running into this rather pleasant but seemingly serious woman in the office when I was working one day. I took the opportunity to introduce myself, and when I told her what my plans for the future were, she lit up instantly and said, ‘Don’t give up. Be the kind of teacher you want to make the biggest impression on your students’ futures,’” Alexi Swank, a senior English education major.

Lettrich was also involved with SHU’s progressive technology by directing a professional development program dealing with inclusive learning and technology.

“I enjoyed attending technology workshops with Dr. Lettrich.  She loved technology and learning new ways to use technology in her teaching,” said Harris.

Swank, Orlowski and Harris all agree that Lettrich was an inspiration.

“Dr. Lettrich was a team player who demonstrated creativity and innovation.  Her energy and enthusiasm regarding education created several new opportunities for our faculty. Dr. Lettrich inspired us to new possibilities. There never was a mountain we could not climb together as a Division!” said Harris.

“She inspired me to become a teacher and to continue to pursue the field even when I was unsure. Through her poise, grace, and strong spirit, she challenged me to reach every student by whichever means were necessary- a challenge that I will continue to pursue every day of my life,” said Orlowski.

“Dr. Lettrich herself was a very caring and compassionate woman and though sometimes she’d give you tough love, it would be just the sort of motivation that a student needed to push them in the right direction. She was the kind of teacher who not only told us how to respect every individual student but also demonstrated that quality in her own classroom on a daily basis,” said Swank.

Lettrich received her doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh in special education and deaf education.

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