Ted Widerski

The Board received the following sad news today. I am sorry to inform you that Ted Widerski, an Instructional Resource Teacher-Secondary in the Talented and Gifted area, passed away unexpectedly this past weekend.
I apologize for the informal way of notifying all of you of Ted’s passing but I know many of you have worked with Ted and I wanted to make sure you were aware of this sad news. My understanding is that there will be an obituary in the paper on Tuesday.
Arlene Silveira

14 thoughts on “Ted Widerski”

  1. I’d always heard very good things about Ted and this Spring I contacted him about one of our sons. Not only was he very conscientious in repeatedly attempting to return my call (lots of missed connections, but he kept at it); he was also professional, friendly informative and helpful. All the good things I had heard were true.
    He will missed.
    My condolences to his family and friends.

  2. My heartfelt sympathies go out to his family and his colleagues in the district. Madison students and their parents have lost a true friend and a tireless advocate. Ted cared deeply and passionately about the students in this district. His passing is a tremendous loss.

  3. Ted was a terrific person and passionate advocate for students and for strong academic programs. He was firm in his convictions about what good programs look like, and courageous in speaking out in front of the board and administration. I ran across him in the audience at board meetings, at parent meetings, and at school functions. He was always listening and offering reasoned and reasonable perspectives. This is a true loss for the district.
    This was in the morning paper today.
    Widerski, Ted
    Ted Widerski, age 57, died Sunday, June, 29, 2008, at his home in Cambridge. Service time is scheduled for 2 p.m., Thursday, July 3, 2008, at GRACE LUTHERAN CHURCH, Cambridge. A visitation will be held at NITARDY FUNERAL HOME, Cambridge, on Wednesday, July 2, 2008, from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m., and from 1 p.m. until the time of service on Thursday. A full obituary will appear in tomorrow’s paper.

  4. For those of you who feel moved to make a contribution in Ted’s memory, here are some ideas from his family:
    Grace Lutheran Church
    501 Skogen Road
    Cambridge, WI 53523
    Wisconsin Center for Academically Talented Youth
    433 West Washington Street
    Madison, WI 53703
    Greater Dane County Talented and Gifted Network
    900 East Garfield Street
    Mount Horeb, WI 53572
    The Ted Widerski Memorial Math Competition (a special fund being created by the MMSD TAG staff in Ted’s memory)
    Foundation for Madison’s Public Schools
    455 Science Drive
    Madison, WI 53711
    (Please note on your check that your contribution is for this special MMSD TAG fund.)

  5. Ted was truly a kind and conscientious man. His was a life well lived. He poured his life into his kids, enriching their futures. He will be missed.

  6. My (13-year-old) son nearly started crying the minute I told him. He was one of the first people in the area to understand twice-exceptional kids (some kind of disability and highly gifted) were not only real but also intriguing and have fantastic potential for fulfilling and productive lives, if only we can both challenge and support them. He was an amazing man, and it is hard to imagine that sorrow that his family, in particular, must be feeling at his passing. I wish I could have attended the services. We were blessed to have known him.

  7. Welda told me she would love stories from folks who had interactions with Ted that she can share with the board and the new superintendent.

  8. We were shocked and deeply saddened to hear of Ted’s death. Ted was a passionate educator, a kind and funny man and he was totally devoted to helping students. We were looking forward to working with Ted for many years. I was always amazed and grateful for his guidance and generosity. Ted often offered his home phone or drove across town for meetings – he was very busy yet he managed to find time to guide students and their families. We will miss him very much!

  9. Ted helped set up early morning sections for Math 234 and Math 340 at UW Madison for high schoolers in the Madison area, so that they wouldn’t miss too much of the school day.
    And he let me know that LaFollette had *many* students ready to take these courses.
    He is sorely missed.

  10. Ted was a mentor and an inspiration. He had such a positive attitude about teaching. He will be sorely missed.

  11. Ted kept in touch with us even after our son returned to homeschooling following a quarter of sixth grade at Hamilton. He and I discussed problems at Hamilton and he was very candid about the situation and people at the school. He regretted that MMSD did not have a systematic way to educate highly gifted kids, and said so, rather than trying to persuade me that teacher-provided differentiation would be adequate. I appreciated his ability to be both positive and realistic; he didn’t try to gloss over anything.
    After Fred returned to homeschooling, Ted invited Fred to the first Mathfest and sent leads on websites and other activities. I was amazed that he found time to think about a student who was no longer in attendance at MMSD, especially given his incredible press of responsibilities.
    A few MMSD middle school students participated in WCATY’s co-op classes for the first time thanks to his efforts. Surrounding school districts have been involved for years, but MMSD resisted substituting WCATY courses for MMSD’s standard language arts curriculum until Ted advocated for enrolling students. I chatted with Ted as he waited to transport kids from the face-to-face sessions; he was really pleased that a couple of principals allowed a few students to benefit from working with academic peers in WCATY’s highly challenging courses. I won’t forget the way he beamed when he was able to accomplish a new goal for TAG kids. He was hoping to expand involvement next year; I hope the TAG department continues his effort to enroll kids in these courses, as well as the Mathfests. Continuing his good work is the best way to honor Ted and his contributions, I think. I’ll miss him.

  12. “I’ll miss him” only begins to capture it for me. Ted was HUGELY important to the student advocacy work I do in the district. I think I/we won’t know — fully — what we’ve lost until the school year begins to unfold.
    People have said that Ted was a tireless and “courageous” advocate for TAG students, and that he was. I couldn’t agree more. At the same time, I can’t help but think “why should it require boundless courage and limitless persistence simply to get smart kids’ educational needs met?” Sigh.
    On a more positive note, it has occurred to me that there are two things each of us could do to honor Ted’s memory. The first is to donate to the “Ted Widerski Mathfest Fund.” There is no better way to honor Ted than to insure that the mathfests he worked so hard to create, implement and protect KEEP HAPPENING. Send your check — appropriately marked “Ted Widerski Mathfests” — to the Foundation for Madison’s Public Schools, 455 Science Drive, Madison, WI, 53711.
    The second thing each of us could do to honor Ted’s memory is to approach the coming school year with the happy intention of becoming more like him. So much of what we are up against in our advocacy work is a matter of misunderstanding, misinformation and misguided attitude. With a change in all of that – and very few more dollars – the situation for our students could be profoundly different.
    Practically speaking, what might it mean to “become more like Ted?” Well, here are a few beginning thoughts about that. I’m sure some of you will have many more.
    If you are a parent …
    … Make sure your student is being appropriately challenged and learning something at school. Don’t assume they will be fine, “no matter what.”
    … Depending on your student’s age, advocate for their educational (and other) needs or support their learning how to advocate for themselves.
    … Be on the lookout for other students in your child’s classroom who need additional challenge, but who may not have an adult to advocate for them.
    … Remember that according to the new state law regarding “gifted and talented” identification, you are a key player!
    If you are a teacher …
    … Don’t always make your bright students learn by themselves.
    … Don’t assume your bright students will be “just fine,” no matter what.
    … Don’t use your bright students as assistant teachers.
    … Make sure your bright students have learning peers.
    … Don’t be afraid to create ability-based groups.
    … If you do “cooperative learning groups,” make sure that all students are pulling their own weight.
    … When a parent expresses concerns that their child is bored and under-challenged, take their concerns seriously.
    If you are an administrator …
    … When a parent expresses concerns that their child is bored and under-challenged, take their concerns seriously.
    … Let your teachers create ability-based groups.
    … Make sure every academically talented student in your school is in a classroom with learning peers.
    … Support the District’s efforts to implement early identification programs.
    … Hire teachers with subject-specific certification (e.g., math and science).
    … Familiarize yourself with the Wisconsin statutes on gifted students and gifted education.
    If you are a School Board member …
    … Familiarize yourself with the Wisconsin statutes on gifted students and gifted education.
    … Get some of the District data Ted requested repeatedly. A good start would be several years’ worth of algebra data, broken down by letter grade, so that we can finally compare “C’s and above” with “D’s and below.” Ted was adamant in his belief that a “D” in algebra was not a passing grade, that a student who earned a “D” in algebra had not learned anything (had maybe even gotten the “D” rather than an “F” simply for showing up). He saw grouping the “D’s” with the higher grades as yet another thing the District did to look better in its own eyes, but at the expense of students’ genuine learning.
    … Work to reverse the homogenization of high school curriculum that has occurred in some of the District’s high schools in recent years. In your heart of hearts, you know it’s not the answer to the problem.
    … Insist on empirical support for curricular and structural changes in our schools, both before ands after changes are made. Make sure you understand what the data are saying. Example: West High School’s English 10 curriculum was implemented in the fall of 2006 in the hopes that certain groups of students would take more rigorous, writing-intensive English electives as juniors and seniors. Do the data indicate that that has happened?
    … Whichever side of the isthmus you live on, embrace the schools on the other side and stop this silly “east-side-versus-west-side” thing. (No more statements like “You West parents have nothing to complain about,” like I heard from one recently retired BOE member on multiple occasions.) We’re all in this together – period – and those of you on the School Board, especially, have an obligation to students and families from ALL corners of the District. (O.K., that’s me talking, not Ted – but I’m sure Ted would have agreed with me 100%.)
    … Always — and I mean always — put our kids’ needs ahead of politics.
    If you are a School Board member who talked a lot about the need for improved “gifted” identification in your campaign …
    … Become the District’s resident expert on the new state law regarding the identification of “gifted and talented” students (http://dpi.wi.gov/cal/gifted.html ). To that end, keep abreast of complaints filed with the DPI by parent groups in other Wisconsin school districts over their district’s failure to comply with this and other “gifted and talented” statutes and rules.
    … Become the MMSD’s champion of early identification efforts. Make sure there is financial and other support for efforts being developed to comply with the new state identification law – for example, plans for the universal assessment of all MMSD first graders (that’s every student!) in 2008-09. Help expand the effort to include third graders next year.
    If you are a special education advocate …
    … Become a member of the Council for Exceptional Children, a national organization that includes “talented and gifted” children in its special education mission.
    If you are a student …
    … Familiarize yourself with the Gifted Children’s Bill of Rights.” (Just google it.)
    … Fulfill your intellectual potential, insist that your school meet your educational needs, choose work that you love, live your life with integrity and love, and do not be afraid to “speak Truth to power.”
    … In short, grow up to be like Ted!

  13. My heart goes out to Ted’s family and to the kids who will be greatly missing his help when the school year begins. Using his background as a teacher, parent, and life-long problem solver, Ted worked from the trenches with real know-how. He consulted with kids, parents, administrators, and counselors to find solutions that would challenge and enrich the lives of kids. What could be a greater legacy in life?
    On more than one occasion, Ted and I shared our pride for our daughters. We commented on how both girls were benefiting greatly from a WCATY course, and the irony that his daughter (the daughter of a MMSD TAG coordinator) was able to take the class as part of her curriculum in Cambridge and yet, my daughter could only take the class as an “extra” course because MMSD did not “count” the course.
    Ted, through countless emails, helped my son navigate the route of taking advanced geometry at East H.S. as a 7th grader. Ted also took the time to meet with Kay Enright, O’Keeffe’s principal, as we investigated creative solutions for an advanced science option. Ted was always pleasant to speak with and he never let us down, always taking the time and effort to help as best that he could.
    I regret that his future was stolen and I pray that the future of kids he would have helped, find opportunities with the help of all of us still on this earth.
    I think that I’ll reread Laurie Frost’s post for suggestions on how I can be more like Ted. My sincere condolences to his family and extended community.

  14. I am an incoming freshman at East and one of the many kids who benefited from Ted’s work. I sometimes refer to him as “The Wizard” because he had a quasi-magical way of getting things done.
    My favorite example was an occasion on which myself, my parents, and Ted were meeting to discuss my math class (the online geometry course which myself and about a dozen other students pioneered). I despised the course, and told him so in no uncertain terms. Talk then turned to how to make the second semester more tolerable. He suggested enrolling me in Honors Biology 1 at LaFollette. He left the room for about thirty seconds and returned with the principal. Within ten minutes, I was enrolled.
    I think that’s my favorite memory of Ted, but it symbolizes all of my experiences with him. He always managed to get things to happen, and he always understood me. That’s what I want to remember about him.

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