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.