Beloved Educator Remembered with Admiration

August 7, 2015

 

by Barbara O’Brien

Meg Rugg spent more than three decades, most of her adult life, in fact, working to make life better for the youngest and often most vulnerable students of southern New Hampshire.  Psychologists and educators say that the first five years of one’s life are the most important in forming the kind of person you become.  Such being the case, Meg Rugg’s life, although tragically ended much too soon, was one that positively impacted hundreds of youngsters along the way.

Margaret Ann Rugg lived in Exeter, N.H., but spent most of her professional life educating children in the towns of Pelham and Windham.  Rugg, age 64, had retired from the Windham School District, where she served as the preschool coordinator, at the end of the 2013-2014 school year.  Upon retiring from the Windham School District, she took a position with McCoy Educational Consultants of Windham.  In addition to her unbridled passion for education, Rugg was also an avid bicyclist and thoroughly enjoyed her jaunts around the countryside with friends.  Two years ago, Rugg and a group of friends even rode to the peak of Mount Washington, New England’s highest mountain.

Tragically, it was this love for bicycling that led to Rugg’s death.  On Wednesday, July 22, at approximately 1:30 p.m., Rugg lost control of her bike and fell into traffic along a stretch of road construction near Route 27 in Exeter.  She was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident.

It didn’t take long for news of the horrific tragedy to reach those in the community where she was loved and admired most.  Although the shock was palpable, those who knew her well still wanted to share their thoughts and memories of this incredible teacher.

Former Windham/Pelham Superintendent Elaine Cutler was one of the first to comment on Rugg’s passing.  “Meg Rugg was the consummate educator,” Cutler said.  “She was one of the finest teachers I have ever had the privilege to know.”  “Without hesitation, I would say she loved those little ones without exception.

“Meg’s deep love and affection for her pre-school youngsters set her above and beyond what anyone could ever expect in a classroom.”  “When you combine her amazing knowledge and vision with her passion for pre-school education, it became apparent why she was able to perform daily miracles.  Her grace, compassion, vision and knowledge were a gift to all who knew her.  She made a difference.”

Windham High School Principal Bob Dawson also spoke about Rugg’s gift for helping children.  “Meg was the quintessential educator,” he said.  “She had a wonderful grasp on how best to educate the dozens of students involved in the Windham pre-school program.  Even more significant, however, was how well she related to the students,” he said.

“Her ever-present smile, calm nature, and obvious love for her students were something they picked up on immediately.  Students and staff alike were touched by her each and every day.  While we feel deep sadness at her loss, and hurt for her family, the high-quality program that she left upon her retirement will be a long-lasting legacy for years to come.”

Windham’s Interim Superintendent Tina McCoy had known Meg Rugg for many years.  They were not only colleagues, but close friends, as well.  “It is difficult to put words together at this time,” McCoy said, pondering how to verbalize her feelings of loss.  “Meg dedicated her career to ensuring that preschool children with disabilities in Pelham and Windham received the specialized instruction and related services that they needed to benefit from general education programs in our districts.

“For three decades, she collaborated with families and professionals in our communities to provide quality services to our youngest and most vulnerable students.”  “Meg was an energetic and insightful person, who always put the needs of kids first.”  On a personal level, McCoy said, “Meg was a compassionate person, who always had a kind word of encouragement for others.  She was a wonderful friend to so many people.  Her energy, sense of humor and kindness will always be remembered.  The world is a better place because of her influence.”

Windham Business Administrator Adam Steel worked with Rugg in both Pelham and Windham.  “Meg was a consummate professional, who made student-centered decisions each day.  She had a passion for education – a passion which extended beyond her retirement from full-time teaching.  Meg will be missed as a role model, a source of positivity and encouragement, and as an inspiration in our profession.”

Former School Board Chairman and cable television volunteer Barbara Coish often sees those in front of the camera from a different perspective.  “As a school board member, I did not have much face-to-face connection with Meg.  However, as the person who televises board meetings, I often saw Meg sitting quietly in the audience, calmly and quietly taking in material that directly influenced her areas of concern.  Meg was such a dedicated person.  Sadly her retirement years were cut short. She still had so much more to give.”

School Board Chairman Ken Eyring also remarked on the tragedy.  “Meg played a key role in the school district by helping young students with disabilities get off to a great start in their education,” he said  “She was a positive impact as an advocate for children and their families, and she will be sorely missed.”

Diane Figaro works as an administrative assistant at Windham High School and also serves as the school board’s secretary during meetings.  “We are all truly saddened by Meg’s loss.  Meg was an inspiration to so many.  Everyone is shocked and saddened.  Meg helped so many families that were wading through the waters with little ones with special needs.  Meg was extremely loving and a very special person,” Figaro said.

Former school board member Beth Valentine said she didn’t know Rugg on a personal level, but was aware how highly she was regarded, both professionally and personally.  “Meg was completely dedicated to those very special early years of a child’s development.”  “She was a very talented and passionate educator,” Valentine said.

Former school board member Michelle Farrell said, “Meg will truly be missed.  Hopefully, there is peace in knowing that her bright smile will live on in the many lives of those she touched.  Meg was the type of person who lit up any room she entered.  She was full of compassion and was dedicated to the young people of Windham.  Meg loved her preschool children and was their advocate and champion.  She is someone I will always admire.”

Windham resident Diane Carpenter, who has been active in the school district for years, described Meg Rugg as “one of a kind.”  “The time, care and patience she took with each child made all the difference in the world to them and their families,” she said.

Former school board member Beverly Donavan said she first met Rugg at the Windham Co-op Kindergarten, about 19 years ago.  “Meg was already very well-respected in the special education community,” Donovan said.  “I was also fortunate to work with her during my six years on the school board, Donovan said, noting that Rugg’s expertise was especially helpful when the district was implementing the first public kindergarten in Windham. “She had a wealth of knowledge and was always a pleasure to work with,” Donovan said.  “I am lucky to have known her.  She will be missed.”

A memorial visitation was held at the Stockbridge Funeral Home in Exeter on Sunday, July 26.  Donations may be made in Meg’s name to the Autism Research Institute at www.autismresearchinstitute.com.