Remembering Miss Ruggles, a teacher never forgotten
MONTGOMERY – Evadne (pronounced ee-VOD-nee) Ruggles was a beloved English teacher and distinguished fisherwoman who made a long-lasting impression on her students. She began teaching at Montgomery Central School on East Houston Avenue in 1924 and retired from Montgomery Area High School in 1964.
Miss Ruggles was born April 5, 1902 in Pike’s Creek in Luzerne County. According to her written biography in the 1964 Montgomery High School year book that was dedicated to her, her father, Milton, owned a country store that sold groceries, candy, dry goods, hardware, and feed.
Her early life was a happy one. She divided her time between playing with her sisters and taking walks to her father’s store where they chose penny candy each day. School, community socials, and music lessons also were important to her.
By the time she was twelve, Evadne was playing the piano for Sunday school and helping out at her father’s store where she enjoyed socializing with the customers.
Miss Ruggles attended school in a nearby one-room school house that held first through eighth grade. At the end of eighth grade, she brought home a report card with twenty-three A’s, and was rewarded with a dime for each A. (This would have been around 1916, when $2.30 would be the modern equivalent of $53.60).
Teaching was in her blood, and the combination of academic excellence and the love of being around other people led her to pursue a career in education. She went to Bloomsburg Normal School (now Bloomsburg University) where she worked to attain her high school credits and then completed the teacher’s course. She played tennis and was the captain of a basketball team before graduating in 1922.
Miss Ruggles headed home and became the assistant principal at the nearby Lake Township School. She kept that post for two years before learning that Montgomery Central School had an opening for an English teacher for grades 7-11. After a train ride to Montgomery in 1924, she met with the supervising principal and school board who then hired her. Miss Ruggles lived at the Pearl Gray Apartments during the school week and on the weekends she went back home to Pike’s Creek where she was actively involved in the Oak Grove Methodist Church.
Her former students remember her as an “outstanding teacher and a very intelligent woman.” She was an expert fisherwoman and had a remarkable sense of humor.
Tom Holtzapple of Montgomery recalls how he and his wife Priscilla, both enjoyed her classes. Patty Goodheart said that Miss Ruggles enjoyed having a good rapport with students, but perhaps let them get away with more than they should have.
Miss Ruggles used humor to connect with her students. She taught for 40 years in a small town, so she had many students over the years who got married and had children who eventually became her students as well. Goodheart said that if a child of a former student acted up in class, she would good-naturedly tease them by pointing out their parent had acted up too and she wouldn’t let them get away with it.
Goodheart’s sister, Doris Yeager, recalled that when Miss Ruggles was at the board with her back to the students, one boy snuck up behind her and unhooked the chain of the shrug she was wearing and put it on himself. Miss Ruggles ignored the silly prank and kept on teaching, even though she was well aware of what was going on. Goodheart said she was inspired to become a teacher because of Miss Ruggles.
Elaine Kobbe of Montgomery remembers a day when Miss Ruggles turned the tables on her students. One student thought it would be funny to burn incense in class. Having no reaction, Ruggles continued her lesson, and when students asked to open windows, she said, “No!” Kobbe said they practically gagged on the fumes. “She was way ahead of us. The joke was on us and I never forgot that.”
Leona Dewalt of Montgomery recalled a house near the school with two large swan-shaped planters in the yard. Some boys skipped school, took the planters that were growing flowers, and presented them to Miss Ruggles.
While Evadne Ruggles was teaching she did summer sessions at Bucknell University. In 1932 she completed her Bachelor of Science in Education. In addition to teaching English, she served for many years as the faculty adviser of the school’s newspaper and senior class. In 1955 she was named honorary member of the Montgomery Area Alumni Association, and in 1962 when Montgomery started their chapter of the National Honors Society, it was named after her.
She devoted her spare time to trout fishing. Holtzapple said, “She enjoyed talking about fishing with her students.” He recalled that she tied her own flies, and was an “avid trout fisherwoman.” Doris Yeager said, “She was an expert of the first degree.”
Evadne Ruggles retired in 1964. She never married or had children of her own, but her excellent teaching and endearing personality are still fondly remembered by her former students.
The devoted teacher passed away in 1992 and was buried in Sweet Valley, Pennsylvania.