Throughout the school year, the students in Danielle Page’s kindergarten class at McVey Elementary School, in East Meadow, were “watching her belly grow,” as 5-year-old Sebastian Mustafich described it, and planning to throw a class baby shower at which they could meet her first child.
But when schools closed because of the coronavirus pandemic, the children’s plans were put on hold. And in late March, Page gave birth to a boy, and she and her husband, Thomas, named him Tyler. But that didn’t stop the students from celebrating with her: On May 10 they held a car parade outside her house in Seaford to honor her first Mother’s Day as a mom.
“At his age, the teacher isn’t just a teacher,” said Patsy Mustafich, Sebastian’s mother, describing Page as a mother figure to her son and his classmates because of “her warm and kind ways.”
While the class parents couldn’t throw her a baby shower, they thought a socially distant celebration “would bring a world of happiness to her,” Mustafich said, “considering giving birth during a pandemic is definitely the last thing any woman would want to do.”
“She was very touched, and this gesture filled everyone’s heart,” she added. “Being able to do this for her for her first Mother’s Day was priceless.”
Page said she was surprised to hear honking two Sundays ago, and opened her door to see 16 cars, all decorated with posters and balloons. Inside them, her students cheered and waved. “It was good to see those kids,” she said. “I think we all needed it.”
Tyler Page was born two months earlier than expected. Asked to describe how the pandemic affected her pregnancy, Page said, “This was actually my first [pregnancy] so I really feel like I didn’t know any different.” She added with a laugh, “Which I think helped the situation.”
Tyler had to spend 30 days in incubation, however, and his mother couldn’t see him, because her hospital, like all others, restricted visitation to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
“That was difficult,” she said. “But you do what you gotta, do and for that little boy I’d do anything.”
This is Page’s ninth year at McVey. For the first four years she was a teaching assistants.
During her maternity leave, she stayed in contact with her class via email, and sent the children pictures of her with Tyler. On May 13, she began teaching them again via Google Classroom, and sending them assignments to complete at home.
Each school day morning, McVey Principal Kerry Dunne uploads the morning announcements on the YouTube channel Good Day McVey. She always includes an inspiration quote, called the “McVey Mighty Kind Moment of the Day.” On Tuesday it read, “If you can’t find the sunshine, be the sunshine.”
“It’s hard because you want to go to school, and you want to go out and play, and you’re missing parties,” Dunne said of life during a pandemic. But, she explained to her students, “finding the sunshine” means looking for alternative ways to celebrate with friends — like the kindergartners’ car parade, helping Page celebrate her special Mother’s Day — and understanding that you will see them in person again.