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Rhoda E. Kittelsen, Lafayette High School teacher Aug. 24, 1936 -- June 15, 2011

Rhoda E. Kittelsen, who taught English, drama and speech at Lafayette High School in Buffalo for 30 years before retiring in 2001, died June 15 in Millard Fillmore Hospital. She was 74.

Born in Chicago, she grew up in Brooklyn. In 1957, she earned a bachelor's degree from Hanover (Ind.) College, where she was a member of the Hanover Student Players and the school's varsity debate team.

She also attended Butler University in Indiana. She taught high school in Indiana and then went on to earn her master's degree from the University of Miami in 1964. After teaching at Thomas Carr Howe High School 420 in Indianapolis from 1964 to 1970, she started what would become a 30 year-career at Lafayette High School, where the theater has since been named in her honor.

"Her passion was doing theater with the kids. She never had any kids herself, but she found her family with her students. She had such a strong following," said Pamela Devine, a good friend.

Ms. Kittelsen received a Teacher of Excellence Award from the New York State English Council in 1983 and received the Lafayette High School Alumni Award in 1985. She also directed plays with the East Aurora Players during the summers.

Ms. Kittelsen earned a Focus Stage Award in 1978 for best performance by a nonprofessional in the "Gingerbread Lady."

After her retirement, she wrote captions for a website called "LOL Cats and Chezburger."