Megan Beattie-Cassan ‘99 knows Burr and Burton from multiple angles: She’s an alum, she’s the current school nurse, and next year, she’ll also be a BBA parent. As the school nurse in the time of a global pandemic, Beattie-Cassan’s expertise has been critical to both BBA’s reopening in the fall of 2020 and the successful prevention of the spread of COVID on campus. This year, Beattie-Cassan was honored with a Rowland Chair, which is granted to staff who are innovative, inspiring, and deeply committed to BBA's mission.
In light of this important, exhausting, and ultimately successful year, we sat down to talk with Beattie-Cassan about her current role, her personal interests, and also about the multiple dimensions of her relationship with Burr and Burton.
Your family has deep roots in the Manchester area. Can you tell me more about that?
We have a Morgan Horse breeding farm, East of Equinox Farm, that was established in 1958 by my grandfather, who was also a state legislator. It was kind of a gentleman’s hobby at first. When he passed away in 1978, the reins came to my father (pardon the pun). Even before that happened, it was starting to become clear that it was going to be a business.
We’re the first Morgan breeding farm to have stallions standing at stud in Europe, the United States, and Canada all at the same time. One of our sires is one of the most prolific sires in the Morgan breed. So, we’re a Vermont farm, but with international recognition in the Morgan community.
I was the third generation to grow up on the farm with my brother and my sister and my parents, and it was a lot of hard work. We were the hay crew, so my dad got really good at making the bales light when we were little so we could lift them. It’s really cool now to see my boys fall into that same lifestyle; now they go and they help Pop.
How did you come to work at BBA, and what do you love most about it?
I always say I’m deeply rooted here. I was the fifth generation on my father’s side of the family to go to Burr and Burton. My oldest son will be coming to BBA in the fall, and my youngest sons, the twins, will graduate in 2029--the 200th year anniversary of Burr and Burton.
I graduated in 1999; During my time here, I was involved in sports, academics, and outside of school, showing horses. When I graduated, I didn't think I'd be coming back. It's one of those things: you turn eighteen, you graduate, you think you're headed to other places--and here I am.
I returned to Burr and Burton in 2015, so I’m just wrapping up my sixth year here as the school nurse. When I became a nurse, I wanted to either become a midwife or a school nurse, but I thought I’d work at the elementary level, because I had gone to school initially for elementary education. The position here opened up, and Burr and Burton is such a special place, especially to anyone who has spent time here, so I thought I should apply.
I’m a huge advocate of health promotion. So, I love being able to work with students in those early years to help them learn healthy choices that will set them up for a lifetime of health. I love working with teenagers--helping to guide them is such a cool part of the role here, and it’s so different from any other aspect of nursing. It’s a completely holistic approach, and since the community is an extension of the student, I know my work impacts the community.
What has helped to get you through the pandemic?
What has gotten me through this year is working closely with the Vermont Department of Health and the administration here at BBA. Sue Towslee, Kelsey Towslee and my Health Center colleagues Sarah Scranton and Megan Brooks were supportive and tremendous help. These four co-workers were there for me in my professional role but also on a personal level. This year would have been nearly impossible without them.
What did you take with you from your time as a student at BBA?
It’s not that easy to tease out my past experience and my current experience--but one of the things I learned was the ability to communicate well, and that came from the respect that teachers had for us. We felt like our voices would be heard, and that instilled a lasting confidence in us. When you first arrive as a freshman at BBA, you come to this campus, not like a typical high school, and you don’t really know what to expect. It’s not the same group of kids you’ve been with--[there are students from] multiple schools, and it can be a little intimidating. But seeing the smiling faces of the teachers and the care and compassion they gave the students made all the difference.
Every day I’m reminded of the respect and the experience I had here, and I’m hopefully able to provide that same experience to the students--to instill confidence that they have a voice here. I think that’s one thing that hasn’t changed on this campus, and that’s one thing that has been with me since my time here at BBA as a student, and it’s one thing I can pass on like a torch in my adult mentor role here.
Also, I took with me the amazing education. I can remember sitting in my first college English class, and thinking, “Wow, I feel prepared for this.” It can be a scary experience: now you’re in college, and you’re wondering if you’re ready. Two of my English teachers, Pete Mull and Bill Muench, are still here. When I see them, I flash back to being that first year college student and thinking, “Oh yeah, Mr. Mull talked about that--I know how to set that up” or “Oh, I already read that book with Mr. Muench.”
This is an amazing school--truly amazing. The academics, and the positive impact that the teachers had on us.
What do you remember about BBA in 1999?
Having WEQX right here really helped to shape the music culture in town, so we listened to a lot of alternative music. Grunge rock was big: Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Sheryl Crow, Weezer, Beck. But my music collection was pretty broad, so I was also listening to Snoop Dog. And I’ve always been a country fan too, and I loved Chris Stapleton in the Steeldrivers, and even more now as a solo artist.
If you walked through the parking lot at BBA, you would have seen mostly Saabs, Volkswagens, and old Volvos. My little Volkswagen Rabbit was pumping Snoop Dog. As far as hanging out, we didn’t really have diners here, so we’d just do extracurriculars and hang out at people’s houses. The farm, actually, was a place where people would congregate; the driveway was big enough that everyone could hang out.
Oh, and we would go camping without tents at the top of Green Peak. I can remember so many nights there where we’d all just be sleeping out by the fire. It’s still such a nice place to hike--there’s bat caves and an old quarry. It’s beautiful--you should check it out.