Rutherford teacher dies in fire

Rutherford Elementary School students and staff are mourning the death of a longtime math teacher who died in a fire early Tuesday morning at her Oakdale townhome.

Oakdale Fire Department personnel found the body of Catherine Weschcke in her bed. Firefighters were called to Weschcke’s home in the 7000 block of 19th Street about 5 a.m. Tuesday. Arriving crews saw smoke coming from the windows and quickly extinguished the blaze.

Weschcke was declared dead at the scene, police said. There was no word on how the fire started.

Weschcke had been employed with Independent School District 834 since August 1988 and was on a leave of absence during the current school year, according to district spokeswoman Carissa Keister. During her time with the district, Weschcke was a media specialist, a fifth-sixth grade teacher and math interventionist, Keister said.
Weschcke had worked at Rutherford, Andersen, Stonebridge and Lake Elmo elementary schools, Keister said.

Staff at the schools where Weschcke had worked were told of her death Tuesday morning and a note was sent home with Rutherford students Tuesday afternoon from Principal Heather Nelson.

“As soon as the principal learned about this today, she and the school counselor went to each room and told teachers and students about the incident,” Keister said.

“The Rutherford Community has a very heavy heart today after learning of the tragic death of former teacher Catherine Weschcke,” Nelson said. “Catherine worked very hard to help support students in their desire to grow and learn. Over the past 25 years she touched many students’ lives with her dedication and her ability to relate to students with humor, care and concern. She will be deeply missed by all who knew her.”

Keister said the district will make counselors available to Rutherford staff and students.