LEOMINSTER — The Fall Brook Elementary School community is rallying around longtime physical education teacher Lorna Moody in a big way as the beloved educator battles cancer.
Moody has been teaching at Fall Brook for 26 years and was diagnosed with uterine cancer at the end of January. When people found out, they wanted to do what they could to show support for her so the school community — including students, families, colleagues, and alumni — came up with the idea to make t-shirts imprinted with the words “Moody’s Lucky Ducks” in all caps with a picture of a rubber duck, a favorite of the teacher.
“Students from the past and present were so intent on doing whatever we could to help her on her journey,” Assistant Principal Lynn Fiandaca said of the inspiration behind the t-shirts.
Once the idea was planted, everyone rallied together to order, organize, and deliver an astounding 700 t-shirts to community members.
“We had enough donations so that every student at Fall Brook was given a t-shirt,” Fall Brook Elementary Parent-Teacher Organization President Katie McNamara proudly shared. “The theme was created by a Fall Brook teacher, as Ms. Moody loves rubber ducks and would often have rubber duck hunts in the building for staff. She would award prizes to teachers who found a duck hidden in some creative space, somewhere in the building. Some of the prizes were an extra gym class for students or a scratch ticket for the teacher. All of this was done as a way to have a little bit of fun before school and help to build a strong, positive culture in the building.”
The t-shirts have been faithfully sported over the last several months on the days when Moody has had surgery or chemotherapy treatments — and then someone came up with the idea to wear them weekly.
“At Fall Brook, and for the outside community, we have officially deemed Mondays as Moody Mondays,” Fiandaca said. “On this day we wear our shirts to show a sense of unity and community for our teacher. We all wear our shirts to let her know we are thinking of her. We take pictures throughout the day and send them to her as a way to show her how much we love and care about her. Students love that they are able to find a way to show Moody how much they care.”
McNamara, a longtime city resident who has two children attending Fall Brook, echoed her sentiments and stated that “words cannot express how much Ms. Moody represents the spirit and culture of our school.”
“Ms. Moody is a staple in our school community,” McNamara said. “She has worked with literally thousands of students at Fall Brook and as a physical education teacher, she always, always goes above and beyond. Moody, as we like to call her, has organized so many incredible opportunities for our students to practice their academic and physical skills.”
McNamara noted some of the enjoyable educational programs the dedicated PE teacher has implemented at the school, including creating a school-wide climbing program for students in grade three, four, and five; the Amazing Math Race for multiple grade levels to practice math skills in conjunction with physical skills; field day which occurs every spring; and even district wide events such as Fifth Grade Survivor, where all fifth-grade students in the district to come together for a fun day filled with physical and learning activities.
“She also helped to organize Fall Brook’s Tree Farm for Charity, coached middle school sports throughout her career, and even at times offered her assistance in math classes as extra support,” McNamara said of Moody. “She does whatever it takes to make sure there is a sense of community in the building that extends far beyond the four walls of her gym. Everyone in our building agrees that she is Fall Brook.”
When asked what she loves most about her job, Moody expressed why she enjoys it.
“I love the desire of all the students wanting to learn and be healthy,” she said. “PE is important for everyone’s health, and it can be a lot of fun! Climbing is my favorite, and challenging students mentally and physically.”
She said her “favorite day of the year,” Field Day, is coming up at the beginning of June and that the Fall Brook community “is joining forces to keep the fun day going” in her absence as she goes through treatment.
Leominster Public Schools Superintendent Paula Deacon has been spotted wearing the now iconic Moody’s Lucky Ducks t-shirt and McNamara said that Moody “consistently shares how she is overwhelmed by all of the support.”
“She has shared her gratitude by communicating to families through videos, texts, and emails,” McNamara said. “She has even surprised students taking the MCAS with a video cheering them on and giving them a little extra boost of confidence.”
Moody said that while going through chemo “is tiring physically” and that she misses being with everyone, she truly appreciates the students, teachers, families, staff and more lifting her up.
“It means the world to me,” Moody revealed, adding that Fall Brook “has been my family for 26 years.”
“I love all of Fall Brook, past and present. I have some of my students’ kids now, as well as a few as co-teachers’ [kids]. I miss seeing my students every day. Having them and my peers supporting me keeps me going with a positive attitude.”