By Doug Ireland
---- — SALEM — Students and school staff are mourning the death of longtime elementary school teacher Robin Mosnicka, who died of a heart attack Friday night at age 51.
Mosnicka, who taught third and fourth grades at Fisk and Lancaster schools for nearly 30 years, was fondly remembered by her colleagues yesterday as the type of teacher and friend who inspired others.
Mosnicka, a Litchfield resident, was especially remembered for her infectious smile and laughter, and her ability to make any school subject an enjoyable experience, according to fellow Fisk School teacher Meg Wallace.
“She was just so happy, smiling and uplifting — it was a joy to be around her,” Wallace said. “She just made learning so much fun for the kids.”
Wallace said her last memories of the popular teacher were joking and laughing with her after classes at Fisk ended Friday afternoon.
That night, Mosnicka told her husband, Mark, she was experiencing indigestion and laid down, Wallace said. He became concerned and called 911.
Mosnicka, who had never experienced heart trouble, died at Catholic Medical Center. She leaves three children.
“It was just so sudden,” Mosnicka said. “She was such an awesome person. We are really going to miss her.”
Superintendent Michael Delahanty and Fisk principal George Murray said the school community was in shock. A half dozen counselors were at Fisk yesterday to help students and staff cope and grieve, Murray said.
Murray called the families of Mosnicka’s 19 third-graders over the weekend so parents would have a chance to speak to their children before they went to school.
He said it was a tough day in the district for those who knew Mosnicka.
“It’s been very difficult,” Murray said. “She was that kind of person who just energized a room.”
“She was always smiling and making the kids feel good about themselves,” he said.
Wallace recalled how Mosnicka, who was very creative, knitted scarves for all her students for Christmas.
Mosnicka enjoyed incorporating music, art and dancing in her lessons, Wallace said.
Last week, Mosnicka and her students, who were studying Africa, happily marched through the school in African costume. Mosnicka led the parade in an African dress and turban, Wallace said.
Mosnicka started teaching in Salem in 1984 and taught at Fisk for 14 years before taking a three-year leave of absence when her two oldest children were born.
She returned in 2001 and taught at Lancaster for seven years, then returned to Fisk in 2008.
Delahanty said former Fisk principal Micki Rhodes, who retired last year, helped fill in for Mosnicka yesterday. Another Fisk retiree, Faith Johnson, will help teach the class for a few weeks until a long-term substitute is found, he said.
Delahanty said because Mosnicka loved the pink, everyone at Fisk will be encouraged to wear pink clothing Thursday in her memory.
A wake is scheduled for Thursday from 4 to 7 p.m. at Dumont-Sullivan Funeral Home in Hudson. Her funeral will be at 10 a.m. Friday at Litchfield Presbyterian Church. Mosnicka’s family asks anyone who attends the services to wear pink clothing.