Debbie Steinfield tells a story that sums up Susan Mikolajczyk's classroom style well.
"I picked her up for work one day and her hair was a mess," said Steinfeld, a fourth grade teacher at Westchase Elementary.
Mikolajczyk decided she'd just wash it in her classroom sink and turn it into a writing lesson about sequential order.
"That's how she taught everything," Steinfeld said. "She just made it fun."
Known fondly as "Mrs. Mik," Mikolajczyk passed away in late December while on a family trip to New York. She was 59.
The school and Westchase community have spent the last few weeks mourning the loss of the well known teacher.
On Friday, Jan. 13 the public is welcomed to a memorial service for "Mrs. Mik," 5pm at Sickles High School, 7950 Gunn Highway in Tampa.
Mikolajczyk began teaching kindergarten at Westchase Elementary since it opened 12 years ago. Overall her teaching career stretched more than two decades. In 2006, the Hillsborough County School District named her Teacher of the Year.
She was known for incorporating costumes, games, and activities into her lesson plans.
If the class was reading Dr. Seuss, Mrs. Mik was known to come to school dressed as the "Cat in the Hat" and make costumes for the entire class. And the yearly reading of "Mrs. Wishy Washy," a book about a woman and all her farm animals, was a yearly highlight.
Mikolajczyk would pull up her pants and walk around in a pool of mud barefoot -- like Mrs. Wishy Washy. Principal Scott Weaver was also invited into the mud fun.
"She had this way about her," Weaver said. "She loved every single kid in her class genuinely."
Weaver received a call in the early morning hours the day after Mikolajczyk had passed away while on winter break.
"I couldn't believe it," he said about the news. "I was just totally stunned."
Westchase Elementary parents and teachers sadly passed the news via phone chain.
When students returned to school from winter break grief counselors and a psychologist spoke to her class. Last week students got to remember Mikolajczyk by sharing a memory of their teacher and releasing balloons on the Westchase Elementary playground.
Those fond memories will continue on Friday when people gather to say their goodbyes during a special memorial service planned for her.
"I've never learned so much from another teacher," Steinfeld said.
If you go:
What: Memorial service for Susan Mikolajczyk
Where: Sickles High School
When: Friday, Jan. 13 at 5 p.m.