A longtime social studies teacher known for creative teaching methods that included the video game “Guitar Hero” died unexpectedly Friday, officials said.
Susan Burke died at Albany Medical Center. She was 57.
Burke had taught at Niskayuna’s Van Antwerp Middle School since 1992 and spent a total of 23 years as a teacher.
“The kids loved her,” parent and PTO member Joan Rutherford said Monday evening. “She was just one of them.”
Rutherford noted Burke’s use of the air guitar to relate to her students. Rutherford’s son Jordan was among her current students. He and other students found out about Burke’s death Saturday after a basketball game.
School officials noted Burke’s leadership. She helped support colleagues and served as a mentor for new teachers.
She was also the first area educator to serve in the Region to Region Program, the precursor to Civics Mosaic, officials said. The program is an exchange between Russia and the United States, in which teachers observe and work in the other country’s schools.
“Susan’s enthusiasm for teaching and love of children and colleagues only grew with time,” Superintendent Kevin Baughman said in a statement. “As a parent, teacher and person, Sue was a role model we all can learn from.”
Her obituary describes her as adventuresome, going roller blading and downhill skiing. It also notes her as an accomplished Guitar Hero player.
Burke most recently taught sixth grade, moving two years ago from eighth grade.
District crisis team members are on hand at the school, and grief counselors were to be available.
Van Antwerp Principal Luke Rakoczy noted Burke’s tireless work to ensure students the best possible experience.
“I could always depend on her for sound, even-handed, well-thought out advice,” Rakoczy said. “Our school is far better for her having taught here. We will miss her tremendously.”
Burke is survived by three children, Andy and Kevin, who live and work in California, and Jennifer, who is a middle school teacher locally.
Relatives and friends are invited to a memorial from 4 to 8 p.m. on Thursday at Dufresne & Cavanaugh Funeral Home in Latham.
Family members asked that donations be made to the American Cancer Society, 260 Osborne Road, Loudonville, NY 12211 in her memory.
Her cause of death was unavailable Monday.
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