Faces in the crowd — Ivazina Bolla
On the first day teachers were back in school to begin the 1999-2000 school year, Sierra Mountain Middle School physical education teacher Ivazina Bolla found out that her husband, Steve, was terminally ill with a liver disease.
She didn’t stop going to the middle school, where she has taught for nearly five years, to teach her children.
Dealing with the pain and the hardest thing she has yet to tackle, Bolla latched onto teaching as her savior.
“School is my release,” she said. “Without it I would be lost.”
The kids keep her going.
“School, coming here, makes it worth it,” she said, looking around the weight room at her class of eighth-graders. The students are busy releasing their adolescent energy, involving themselves in a variety of fitness training activities in the SMMS weight training room.
Jump ropes are turning at near-light speed, as students try to match Bolla’s feat of turning the rope five times in one jump. The weight machines are active. Two students look like they are skateboarding on balance boards.
“I know I am here for a reason. I can make a difference in this students’ life,” she said, pointing to one student turning a jump rope,” and that makes it all worth it.”
Although she has missed a lot of school days this year, she says she is unable to just give up.
And her students have been very supportive of her, she said.
“Most of the time, they (my students) are really nice and supportive. Most of the time they’re open and talkative,” she said. “They make me feel good, they make me want to teach.”
Bolla, 38, got into teaching when she went back to get her master’s degree at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. While she was putting herself through school, she taught some physical education classes at the university to undergraduate students. The university asked her to stay and teach.
“I said, OK, why not,” she said. “That was fun. I realized I liked teaching.”
While earning her teaching certificate, Bolla worked at an Indian reservation in Arizona. She helped put together a PE program on the reservation.
“Then, I was really scared. You drove out in the middle of nowhere for two hours. The teachers would come up to me and say ‘good luck’ … But I always went back. I’m the type of person that would go back no matter what. I wouldn’t give up.”
The experience was like nothing she had ever taught before, she said. The American Indians living on the reservation were very wary of new people coming in.
“You weren’t sure whether you got anything across or not,” Bolla said. “But I started a new dance program and they did it.”
Bolla said that teaching middle school students is similar to teaching college students.
“They’re energetic, they’re willing to try anything,” she said of both groups. “In college they want to be there as well. In middle school, they want to be there, they ask questions … It was a fairly easy transition.”
Bolla moved to Truckee in 1991. Nine years is the longest time she has ever lived in one place, she said.
She grew up an army brat with five brothers and sisters, and has lived all over the United States. After finishing her undergraduate degree from Humboldt State University and the University of California, San Diego, Bolla moved to Yosemite, where she lived for six years and worked for the employee recreation department. She admitted her first summer working there, she flipped burgers at a fast food restaurant in Tuolomne.
“It wasn’t one of my shining moments, but I can flip a good burger now,” she joked.
At the recreation department, Bolla eventually started an employee fitness program, which is still used by employees.
And of course, living in Yosemite, Bolla was very into rock climbing.
“That’s what you do there,” she said. “I never did the big wall stuff, I was too afraid to spend the night on the wall. But Tuolemne was one of my favorite places to climb. I would climb anything and everything.”
Although Bolla has stayed in Truckee for almost 10 years, she said she still feels like she’s moving every three years because she keeps trying new things.
Besides teaching and coaching the eighth grade girls volley ball team and track and field, Bolla teaches cross-country skiing at Tahoe Donner.
In the past she has worked for summer camp programs and she teaches fitness classes at Trout Creek in the summers.
Besides all of her other athletic endeavors, Bolla has been learning to telemark ski for the past five years. She said last year it clicked for her.
Teaching athletics and fitness comes naturally for her.
“That’s what I’m good at,” she said. “I’m a very hyper person. I need to release it all. Fitness is a neglected aspect of everybody’s lives. At the middle school age especially, I just think it’s so important. They (the students) need to know what they can do with themselves. It’s mental and physical. It’s the new PE – fitness and health.
“I’d be hard pressed to teach anything else. It’s fun, I can join in and do things with them.”
She said she can’t see herself getting bored teaching at any point.
“I found out, even after my fifth year here, there’s so much more I want to do. I ask, what can I try next? Because the students give back in return.”
Close friends of Ivazina Bolla call her “Zini.” She jokes that most people who look at her couldn’t even try to guess what her ethnicity is. Her mother is Filipino, her father Spanish/French. Her maiden name, Zuniga, is Spanish. Bolla is Hungarian.
“Most people can’t tell what I am,” she said. “It’s a different combination and it doesn’t go with my name as well.”
Bolla predicts she will be in Truckee for a long time.
“There are good people here,” she said. “People are friendly and helpful. I’ve always lived in small towns, though. It’s a good feeling.”
(Do you know someone who stands out from the crowd? As Andy Warhol said, everyone deserves at least 15 minutes of fame. To nominate a “face in the crowd,” contact Features Editor Sherry Mays at 587-6061 or send a note to P.O. Box 2973, Truckee, CA 96160.)
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