By Tasia Mochernak
It can be very difficult to break a cycle.
As a high school sophomore, that cycle is school, stress and lack of sleep. This recurring, unyielding pattern seldom provides an opportunity for us to reflect on the happy years of elementary school with 15 minutes maximum of homework and all the leisure time in the world. The focus is on the future, not the past, and we are hard-pressed to remember details of our lives from the fleeting glimpses we catch while continuing our cycle. Mrs. Paige Rollins, however, can see much more than a glimpse of everything, or at least, me.
Mrs. Rollins was my second grade teacher at Del Mar Heights Elementary School. Everything about her exudes warmth, intelligence, kindness, familiarity — all the qualities of not only a wonderful second grade teacher, but also an exceptional person. Throughout the years, my thoughts have returned many times to the studies of Africa, vocabulary word jars, creative writing and an overall incredibly interesting learning environment that is Mrs. Rollins’ classroom.
One of the main highlights of every second grader’s year is the “Bugs” musical, performed by student-insects going on a picnic. As a second grader, I was a ladybug, singing and dancing to “Be a Lady” along with many other girls. It is an exciting experience for any 7- or 8-year-old, but it remains the same year after year, especially for the teachers. For Mrs. Rollins, however, every year is absolutely special.
Seven years later, after a wave of hundreds of other students had rolled in and out of her doors, Mrs. Rollins remembered my ladybug performance. When no parents volunteered to choreograph the ladybug dance like they had in the past, Mrs. Rollins contacted me and offered me the opportunity. Over a couple of months, she provided me with CDs, videos of past performances and endless support. While she and the other second grade teachers coordinated their schedules to fit in convenient practice times for me, I endeavored to break out of my high school cycle and absorb some of the ordinary, pure excitement and enthusiasm from the second graders I taught.
At the same time, Mrs. Rollins wrote a detailed letter describing my achievements to the Del Mar Times, and asked the newspaper to write an article about me — even though I owed the success of the show to her. After the delight that many students, parents and staff expressed about the musical, I could see that Mrs. Rollins’ simple request had developed into more that just some volunteer hours for me. It became an activity that I would enjoy continuously throughout my high school years.
As I am writing this, the dress rehearsal and final performance of this year’s “Bugs” musical are drawing closer. In some ways, this year’s ladybug performance is even more special to me. My little sister, Natalia, a second grader in Mrs. Rollins’ class, will perform the dance that I choreographed, continuing the legacy. Unfortunately, Mrs. Rollins cannot entirely participate in the rearing of a new generation of fun-loving insects.
Mrs. Rollins was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2013. Since then, she has undergone treatment at various facilities in Texas and California while Mrs. Meaghann Denyer has been teaching in her absence. In order to repay Mrs. Rollins for her many years of love and commitment to all of her students and Del Mar Heights Elementary School, students, parents and staff have united to provide Mrs. Rollins with dinners and support her while she is away from her beloved classroom.
On designated days, teachers and staff wear shirts decorated with the words “Team Paige” to raise awareness of breast cancer and encourage Mrs. Rollins to continue her fight. Additionally, Team Paige members make entertaining videos and take photos of her past and present students’ growth and accomplishments, supplementing those with products of love such as a large, decorated ceramic heart and many handwritten notes. Parents of former and current students sign up to participate in a Meal Train, cooking meals for Mrs. Rollins and her family three times a week. Simply returning the love, attention and encouragement that Mrs. Rollins has always provided can be enough to help her overcome each and every obstacle in her way.
If Mrs. Rollins has touched your life in any way, whether with great influence or with just a small act of kindness, I encourage you to “be the change you wish to see in the world” and take action to aid Mrs. Rollins in her fight against breast cancer.
To Mrs. Rollins: Thank you for all you have done for Natalia and me. We wish you all the best in the world!
To participate in Mrs. Rollins’ Meal Train, visit www.mealtrain.com/?id=mx42kn5i6e0t.