Here’s the thing about Roger Allard – he didn’t actually teach many of the students who remember him so well. He was a special education teacher but he managed to connect with everyone at East Greenwich High School, where he spent the majority of his career.
Allard, who died Wednesday at the age of 70, went on to serve as a school administrator in other districts, but his impact on a couple generations of East Greenwich students, their parents and his colleagues was powerful.
“Whether you were first in your class or barely graduating, Mr. Allard made you know you were talented and could achieve success with discipline and hard work,” Greg Dantas, EGHS Class of 1995, wrote in a comment on Allard’s obituary. “We were blessed to have him in our lives.”
“Roger was somebody who literally loved East Greenwich High School,” said Bob Houghtaling, who starting working in the EG public schools as a drug counselor in 1983. “He was one of the first people who welcomed me in. He had a nice way about him. When I think of Roger, I don’t think anybody in that school loved that place as much as he did.”
Allard involved himself in a variety of ways. In addition to teaching, he was the wrestling coach for several years and volunteered at football and basketball games, and ran a basketball program before school for anyone who wanted to play.
“He’s just the greatest guy in the world,” said Steve Coppinger, principal at EGHS for 17 years. “He would give you the shirt off your back. He cared about kids. Everything about him just screamed professional.”
“Roger epitomized what anyone would want in a teacher,” said Chuck Barton via email. “Not just someone who was in charge of a classroom, Roger cared about all the students he encountered. My older son never had Roger for a teacher, but Roger constantly talked to me about my son, concerned about him even after graduation. When there were issues, Roger was there to help. Roger understood high school kids, but more importantly he cared deeply about them. My son was not the exception to Roger's caring - he was the rule.”
Bob Plain, from the Class of '92, wrote this on Facebook: "Rest in peace, Mr. Allard, and thanks for being one of the great teachers in my life. You were a friend to all us screw-ups made sure we knew there were places outside of the classroom where we could shine."
Lou Lepry, who led East Greenwich schools for decades, was good friends with Allard but also an admirer of his work with students.
“He really was their advocate,” Lepry said. For the kids with special needs, especially, Allard fought to give them the privileges all the other students had. “That was his major goal,” said Lepry.
Allard, Lepry and others who worked in the EG public schools, like Joe Militello, Steve Coppinger and Eddie DePastina, formed a tight circle of friendship that continues today.
“We spent 35 years sailing to Block Island in the summer time. Played golf here and there forever,” said Lepry. “We used to go quahogging all the time. We used to have a clambake on an island in a cove in Wickford.”
They did other things as well, Lepry recalled, like putting on meals at a shelter for the homeless in Warwick.
“We did almost everything together,” he said.
Eldredge Principal Dom Giusti got to know Allard during Giusti’s first years in the district, when they both were rec basketball supervisors.
“Roger was always looking to make positive connections with his students,” said Giusti. “He would find a way, whether through sports, popular culture, etc., to get that connection. He had a knack of always making his students feel that they were important to him.”
Allard is survived by his wife, Paula, who was an art teacher at the high school, and their daughter, Stephanie, an EGHS graduate. You can read his obituary here.Here are the identities of the group photo circa '80 attached: From left: unknown, Bobby Domina, Paul Wragg, Thomas Lepry, Roger Allard, Lou Lepry (son), Eddie DePastina, Jim "Jumper" McDonald, Joe Militello. Lou Lepry is kneeling in front.