Published February 27, 2023 at 6:00 a.m. | Updated February 27, 2023 at 11:43 a.m.
Susan Carey Biggam, 75, passed away peacefully at her home, while surrounded by family and longtime friends.
Born on April 7, 1947, to Dr. Edmund Carey and Eleanor Lynch Carey of Milton, Mass., Sue graduated from the Newton Country Day School in 1965. She earned her undergraduate degree in 1969 at Trinity College in Washington D.C., where she met her husband, Patrick Biggam. After earning a master's of education at Syracuse University in 1970, Sue married Patrick on August 22, 1970, and the pair moved to St. Louis, where Sue began her teaching career.
The couple made their way to Vermont in 1972, built their own post-and-beam house by themselves next to Spruce Mountain in Plainfield — with wiring proudly completed by Sue — and raised three children. Sue began her Vermont teaching career at Barre Town Elementary School and later became the Title 1 director as a reading specialist. She then worked at the Vermont Department of Education as the elementary reading and language consultant, and changed her focus from educating children firsthand to partnering with the adults responsible for the process.
Sue received her doctorate of education degree from the University of Vermont in 1997. Three years later, she worked closely with former Vermont Commissioner of Education Marc Hull to create the Vermont Reads Institute, which is now Partnerships in Literacy and Learning. Their efforts were dedicated toward offering professional development for Vermont K-12 teachers, principals and superintendents. Sue traveled across the country — and to every pocket of Vermont — sharing best practices in literacy assessment and instruction.
Sue’s education style was characterized by a lighthearted manner, and she was a master at simplifying complex tasks and empowering teachers and students to embrace literacy with enthusiasm and confidence. She used those skills during two trips to provide education training in Tanzania, and, in 2007, she spent a year in Haiti instructing teachers. She was a member of the NAEP Reading Assessment committee and served as president of the New England Reading Association.
Her publications, professional conference sessions and workshops had impacts on literacy practices, locally and nationally. Sue initiated the first statewide writing portfolios and literacy profiles — used to measure students’ progress — while training teachers and administrators in the use of these assessment tools. She honored the hard work of teachers and advocated for the support they needed. Opportunities to work collaboratively were built into every professional development Sue planned, including the VRI Literacy Summer Institute for teachers. At the end of each of those work days, Sue inspired group hikes, swims and happy hour charades.
The Susan C. Biggam Scholarship was created at the time of her retirement. It is annually awarded to a teacher who exhibits a commitment to literacy improvement, a collaborative approach to sharing professional practices and an insatiable desire to continue learning — all attributes that defined Sue.
Outside of work, Sue was a devoted and caring mother whose love of family was a powerful force. During the winter, she enjoyed sitting by a cozy fire and reading, cross-country skiing and cooking delicious meals, including her signature corn pudding, French silk pie and blueberry pancakes. The arrival of spring was always a special joy as she planted seeds for her bountiful vegetable gardens. Sue loved the sun and radiated happiness while singing, taking walks with her friends and kayaking on local lakes and ponds.
Under Sue’s gentle demeanor was a steely resolve that helped overcome any personal or professional obstacles. In recent years, her optimistic outlook and love for the outdoors carried on even after a diagnosis of dementia. Her unflappable positivity and cheerful, authentic demeanor in the face of these new challenges allowed her to remain active while volunteering for the Vermont Foodbank and singing with the Montpelier Community Gospel Choir. Sue especially loved being a Nana and reading books to her grandchildren. Her infectious smile could light up any room, and her warmth, kindness and generosity were limitless.
Sue is survived by her husband Patrick; their children, Carrie, Jamie and Kate; grandchildren Oakley and Bodhi Tharp; siblings Marilou Hyson, Tim Carey and Ted Carey, and Kate’s husband, Tim Tharp. A celebration of Sue’s life is planned for this summer.
Online condolences may be left at guareandsons.com.