Maria Ryan was known for her kind and gentle manner, a teaching style that brought out “the very best” in the special-needs students she worked with at Rolling Ridge Elementary School, Principal Andrew Davis said.

“She was loved by all,” he said.

Ryan, 52, who lived with her husband and three children in Sterling and had worked as a teaching assistant for special-needs students at Rolling Ridge for six years, died Dec. 4 after she suffered an apparent seizure on the school campus, school officials said.

Ryan had just driven into the parking lot when she appeared to suffer a medical emergency, said Wayde Byard, spokesman for the Loudoun County public schools.

Despite suffering a seizure, Ryan was able to avoid hitting any vehicles or pedestrians in the parking lot before bringing the car to a stop, Byard said.

Emergency medical personnel were called, and Ryan was taken to a hospital, where she later died, Byard said.

It was the third death of a beloved Loudoun educator in recent weeks, after the Nov. 21 death of Sanders Corner Elementary School Principal Kathleen Hwang and the Nov. 24 death of George Barton, a former county leader who taught English and journalism at Park View High School.

There was a memorial service for Ryan on Saturday in Sterling.

“Over the years, Maria brightened the lives of each and every one of the students she served,” Davis said.

Memorial donations can be made to Outlandish Love Ministries, at, or to the Loudoun County Special Olympics, at