Saint Ignatius High School languages teacher Elisa Bredendiek was 5 years old when the Berlin Wall came down. She was born and lived in what was previously East Berlin. She grew up there during a transformational time. As a result, Bredendiek brings a distinctively European background to the language classes she teaches, making sure her students learn more than simply verb conjugation – they learn the culture and way of life of European citizens as well.
Bredendiek is fluent in four languages: her native German, English, French and Spanish – the latter two she teaches at Saint Ignatius. She also speaks some Russian and Arabic, not fluently, she says, “but enough to get by.”
Her path to West 30th and Lorain has been an interesting one. She arrived in Northeast Ohio shortly after graduating from high school.
“I did what many Germans do – I took a gap year,” Bredendiek says. “But, I wanted to do something substantial, something with meaning.”
She worked at the InterReligious Task Force (IRTF) in Cleveland, a non-profit that focuses on human rights. Once here, she needed an affordable place to live, and as a result got to know the local Catholic Worker Community. Through them, she lived in a community setting and fell in love with the organization.
“That was a vibrant community in 2005,” she says. “We wanted to save the world and do good work. They are completely volunteer-based.”
When her year was up, she felt she was not ready to return home to Germany. In order to stay and keep within the terms of her visa, she chose to continue her studies and enrolled at Hiram College on a full scholarship.
“I felt very blessed with that,” she says. “I worked to buy books and food and to pay for housing.”
She studied languages and political science at Hiram and took an office job after graduation. That work did not fulfill her in the way she hoped it would. Her desire to make a difference in the world was still very much there. Teaching seemed like the perfect fit. She joined Saint Ignatius in 2019. Here, Bredendiek says, she has found a home.
“I like the Jesuits and Jesuit spirituality,” she says. “I feel a sense of belonging here.”
Department Chair Joe Zebrak ’87 credits Bredendiek for adapting so quickly, noting that she is a “true professional who takes her craft very seriously.”
“Elisa brings a great deal of passion to her classes,” he adds. “She has infused her classes with her contagious energy and brings a different perspective to our sometimes lively departmental conversations.”
Bredendiek credits her fellow teachers for the sense of camaraderie they bring to the workplace. More than that, though, she loves her students, noting that so many are engaged and very caring young men. She is hoping to go on the Kino Border mission trip this spring and is touched that the school invites and supports students willing to give up their spring break to do something this important.
“The amount of Catholic social justice taught here is unique,” she says. “It’s about more than just curriculum. We teach to the heart.”
Getting to know Elisa Bredendiek
- Married to Peter Quilligan
- They are parents of two daughters: Siberia (age 7) and Sonora (age 4).
- Enjoys audiobooks in different languages. Listened to the Harry Potter series in French.
- Believes learning other languages is more important than ever in our global society.
- Loves travel and would like to take her family to Chile or Argentina at some point.