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 Staff Spotlight: Ms. Ruggerio

12/3/2019 12:00 PM

​As an RPS 205 student, I have been encouraged to take courses ranging from philosophy to calculus. I have enjoyed English classes that have taught me how to write with impact, looked forward to history and civics courses that have shaped my perspective, and loved math classes that have led me to think more analytically. But science — science has always been a sticking point. That changed when I took my first course (AP Physics 1) with Ms. Ruggerio.

Ms. Ruggerio made her lessons engaging and pushed us to think critically. Classes often began with collaboration on the previous night's homework and putting our work on whiteboards. The remaining class time was spent discussing differences in our methods and debating answers. Unbeknownst to me, Ms. Ruggerio wasn't simply teaching us physics. She was teaching us to have conviction in our answers. Sitting down for a test, I would often channel those discussions and internally argue for why I believed a certain answer was correct. Ms. Ruggerio made me more confident in a subject where I felt insecure.

I remember sitting down for one of the weekly quizzes and looking down at my paper to see a complex problem involving rotational kinematics, work, and energy. The fear that previously came with science tests was quickly replaced with an excitement to work through what felt like nothing more than an intricate puzzle. Physics, unlike most other subjects, is unpredictable. You can only study the concepts, you can't study the types of questions. Ms. Ruggerio makes sure that her students are some of the most flexible in the nation. Through changing our mindset to look at the questions as puzzles that we must decode, she has had incredible success: her students get 5's on the AP exam at triple the national standard.

This year I elected to take Physics C – the highest level physics course offered to students in RPS 205 – with Ms. Ruggerio, and I have deepened my appreciation for not only the subject but furthermore her as a teacher. Our classroom discussions have gone farther than simply physics into discussing the need for healthcare reform, understanding the difference between equity and equality, and getting insights into her life as a mother, a student pursuing her master's degree, and an avid tweeter. It is one thing to be exceptional at teaching students challenging concepts, it is another to invest your time into cultivating them into critical thinkers, compassionate members of their student body and engaged members of their community.

Recently, Ms. Ruggerio gave us our most challenging assignment yet. She allowed us to redo a free response question from a previous test that the class struggled with and allowed us the first half of the class to collaborate. The challenge was that we were supposed to discuss complex physics problems involving graphs and lengthy derivations without writing anything. The class fell into a clatter of clashing voices, everyone seeking to express their thought process but frustrated when their words came up short. As we worked through the problem, each student filling in what others were struggling to communicate, the dynamic of the classroom shifted. Those who commonly lead class discussions could not simply write their solutions for others to memorize and regurgitate, they were forced to think deliberately on how to express their ideas, giving others plenty of time to speak up. Those who commonly stand silently in the back were forced to speak up when they could not understand what was being said. They had to understand not just what step was taken, but also why it was taken. Ms. Ruggerio never fails to challenge us to be better students, more eloquent communicators, and more creative problem solvers.

Ms. Ruggerio is by no means an easy teacher, but through her encouragement to reach beyond what is comfortable and intuitive, I have grown from "not a science person" to someone capable of succeeding in anything I commit myself to. It is impossible to quantify the impact that the teachers have on our lives. They uplift us, inspire us, and challenge us, but most importantly, they create an impression on us that will carry far beyond high school. Ms. Ruggerio has taught me invaluable lessons: to listen intently and speak thoughtfully, to be flexible in my mindset and yet confident in my answers, and to not limit myself to what is easy or comfortable. When I first walked into Ms. Ruggerio's room as a junior, I expected to learn about physics. Little did I know she would ultimately teach me so much more.

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