Grateful Students of Long-Time Retired Teacher, 97, Pay Forward to Cover Her Bills

In the 1947 film “It’s a Wonderful Life”, an angel named Clarence helps a downcast man see the positive impact he has had on the lives of many people.

For Rose Sleigh, 97, her angel is called Joshua. In 1976 Joshua Lazerson was a student in Sleigh’s Advanced English Class at Torrey Pines High School. She nurtured in him a love of writing and reading, and when his stepfather passed away suddenly, she was a great source of comfort for him and his mother. Today, she is like a second mother to Lazerson and a “bonus grandmother” to her 21-year-old son, Aris.

Earlier this year, Lazerson discovered that Sleigh’s growing medical expenses were quickly draining her savings and that she was at risk of losing her room in a nursing home in Carlsbad. Two months ago he launched a GoFundMe campaign and contacted the alumni associations of the schools where Sleigh taught during her 40-year career, assuming that she was having as big an impact on the lives of other students as it was on her own. He was right.

As of October 9, 143 people – most of them former Sleigh students at Torrey Pines and San Dieguito High Schools – have donated nearly $ 30,000. But what’s even more special about Sleigh are the written tributes that have arrived with many donations.

“I’m just amazed by it all,” she said. “I’m overwhelmed.”

Many donors – some now professional teachers and writers, like Lazerson – have credited Sleigh with their career success, while describing his caring nature, unorthodox teaching methods, and sometimes eccentric behavior in the classroom.

English teacher Rose Sleigh seen teaching a class in the mid-1970s at Torrey Pines High School. The student in the photo is not identified.

(Courtesy photo)

Lazerson said Sleigh was the teacher who wore fluffy pink slippers to class, took her dogs to school, stood on tables to make a point, and made students hang from the rafters in the classroom while delivering their theses (to prove that the paragraphs were “supported” their argument). She was also the teacher who invited entire classes of students to her home for meals and offered a listening ear to students struggling with mental health issues, questions about their sexuality, and issues at home.

“She was the proverbial breath of fresh air as a teacher and a little theatrical, but in a positive way. She wasn’t just interested in teaching us how to get from point A to point B, she was interested in us, ”said Lazerson, who is the senior grant writer for the Vista Community Clinic. “A number of people have said that Rose saved their lives. I have no doubts about it.

One of GoFundMe’s donors is Misha Klein, a writer and teacher who said it was hard to say how “Rosie” has influenced her writing and her life.

“She was ready to fight with me and fight for me when I lost leadership,” Klein wrote. “She was so real with us, sharing her own difficult experiences in life, revealing herself as a person, and she respected us as people. She didn’t tame herself to fit in.

Rose Sleigh in her room at the Carlsbad Residential School where she lives on Saturday.

Rose Sleigh posed for a photo in her room at the Carlsbad Residential School where she lives on Saturday.

(Bill Wechter / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Donor Karen Worley said she owed her career as a writer and editor to Sleigh, who nurtured her love of words, but also pushed her to work harder by giving her a “figurative slap on the head when I needed it”.

“She helped me develop the confidence and courage to do this, at a time when I really needed support,” Worley wrote. “I admired her independence, her ‘devil maybe’ approach to life and her open and warm heart. I still do. I think of you so often Rose – and I love you. Thank you for everything you have given me.

Sleigh grew up on a wheat farm in western Kansas, where his grandparents had arrived decades before in covered wagons. She excelled in school, made it to the state spell finals, served as a high school major, and the first girl in Greeley County to go to college. She played the piano in a dance orchestra called Rosie & Her Four Thorns and dreamed of a career in music, but eventually opted for the more stable profession of teaching.

Her first teaching position was at a one-room school in Wichita, Kan. She later spent 10 years teaching at Box Elder High School in Brigham City, Utah, then moved to North County, where she spent a decade teaching at San Dieguito High School. at Encinitas and a dozen more years at Torrey Pines, before retiring in 1989. Sleigh began her career during WWII and was launched into the job with virtually no training. To keep the students’ attention, she gradually invented her own teaching methods.

“I kind of did my own thing and it turned out I liked it. It was wonderful being with the kids,” she said. “I got involved in their emotions. . If I could sense that something was wrong with someone, I would ask them. Some students called my class Rose’s Remedial Religion.

Joshua Lazerson wipes a tear as he talks about Rose Sleigh, right.

Joshua Lazerson wipes a tear as he talks about Rose Sleigh, 97, who was his high school English teacher in the 1970s. Now he raises money to help cover his living expenses.

(Bill Wechter / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Sleigh is the mother of three grown children who live across the country. Several years ago, she sold her house in Solana Beach and was living comfortably off her savings, in addition to her $ 4,300 in monthly pension and Social Security income. About six months ago her medical needs increased to the point where she needed 24 hour nursing care. She moved into a nursing home and the cost of that and her 24 hour care is rising. now at around $ 11,000 per month.

Lazerson said Sleigh was covering the monthly deficit with his savings, but it will run out soon. He hopes that the GoFundMe account (, who has a goal of $ 50,000, will give her a year of security in the house where she now lives. Then he could start another fund at the end of 2022. In the meantime, he visits her every day and reads to her, as her vision is now too weak to read. They are now in the second volume of Will and Ariel Durant’s 11-volume series on the history of western civilization, “The History of Civilization”.

“You can’t imagine how handsome he was,” Sleigh said of Lazerson. ” He saved my life. I don’t know where I would be without him.