Former social studies department chair leaves legacy of family, academic rigor

Claire Yung, Online Managing Editor & Features Editor

Katherina Linder passed away on Oct. 26 following a four-year battle with ovarian cancer. She was diagnosed with stage 4 in 2018. After working at Central for 31 years as a teacher and social studies department chair, Linder retired in 2020. 

In the Central community, she is being remembered as generous, a talented leader who cultivated a stronger community within her department and an educator who upheld a high standard of academic rigor. 

Social studies teacher Cindy Tilt was one of Linder’s close friends.

“She was a very generous person,” Tilt said. “She was very strong in her faith, she valued family and friends. And when I say family, I mean she obviously valued her personal family, but she really felt that the social studies department was also her family.”

Linder created a family-like environment by giving various gifts, like food, to her colleagues and their families. 

“She thought that food went well with anything,” Tilt said. “So if we had long days, like staff development days, she always provided food for us to soften the blow. If you had something happen in your life whether it was positive or negative, she was always in some way letting you know she was thinking of you.”

Social studies teacher Lynne Hanley and Megan Plackett, Director of Professional Learning & Student Programs, had Linder as a history teacher when they were in high school. Both described Linder as a “brilliant woman and teacher.”

“[Linder] was really passionate about both her content area and her students,” Plackett said. “She didn’t do a lot of notes or visual aids. She’d sit at her desk and she leaned back and held her hands and she told stories. We were always awed by her ability to bring history to life in a storytelling way, and tell us all these things, with no notes, no reminders for herself.”

While Linder held both her students and staff to high expectations, she also made sure to build connections and consider the person as a whole.

“She’s very demanding of her students and she’s very demanding of her teachers,” social studies teacher Todd Holmberg said. “The reputation of the department was important to her. So she busted our butts and people stepped up. But the most important thing to remember about Mrs. Linder is she understood you. She knew that in order to be a good educator, you need to be in a good frame of mind and be focused on the kids. And if you were worried about your family, she knew that and she wanted you to take care of that.”

Linder left Central in the 2019-20 school year in part due to her cancer battle as well as concerns over COVID-19. 

“She loved being here, she didn’t want to quit,” Hanley said. “She just wanted to be teaching and did that as much as possible until COVID-19 made it unsafe.” 

After Linder left, she continued to stay in contact with staff members and even asked to stay on the staff mailing list in order to hear about school updates. She also built lasting relationships with previous students.

“One of the amazing things is she never forgot a single student she ever had,” Plackett said. “She had this amazing ability to remember all the names and all the years they graduated, and she stayed in touch with so many people after graduation that she was constantly telling us stories  about them. Her relationships with people, especially her students, didn’t end at graduation. They lasted their whole life.”

These connections Linder built throughout her life showed at the evening of her wake on Nov. 3.

“I think one of the neatest things in her passing is just the gathering from all ages and stages of her life that came together,” Plackett said. “One of her greatest legacies was her gift of gathering people.] There were a lot of laughs and there were a lot of tears and a lot of truth telling. I think she loved her people and they loved her right back like a family.”