“Every time she comes into my class, she asks the kids, ‘Guess who was my teacher when I was three?’ The kids ask, ‘who?’ and she yells, ‘Rokhsana!’”

Rokhsana Bhatt and Rose Lucas go way back. Currently, they’re both teachers at our outstanding Early Learning School, but 21 years ago? Well…things looked a little different. 

While the two women work hand-in-hand these days, two decades ago, Rokhsana was chasing her now-coworker around the classroom before naptime. Things certainly have changed! 

To learn more about the remarkable relationship between these two, as well as their connection with our JCC, we figured it was best to hear about it in their own words. Please enjoy our interview with Rokhsana (Lead Teacher & Toddler Team Supervisor) and Rose (Support Teacher). 

Q: Hi Rokhsana and Rose! This is such an interesting story and relationship you both share. Can you tell us how long you’ve worked at the JCC? 

RB: I have been working at the JCC for 22 years. 

RL: I started working as an ELS support teacher in February of 2022, but I have worked in several positions here at the J. 

Q: And how did you become involved with the JCC? What drove you to work in the ELS? 

RB: I started as an assistant teacher in the ELS. I worked from 9:00 am – 6:00 pm and helped all the classrooms with their needs. I would clean the room, help the class move from one location to another, help with lunch breaks, and most importantly (my favorite task) was helping the children one-on-one. This encouraged me to pursue a higher education to become a Lead Teacher so I could spend more time helping children as they grow and learn. 

RL: I started preschool at the J at age 4 in 2001. I made great friends and even better memories — some of which are still with me today! After preschool, I attended Camp Shai and loved spending my summers at the JCC. Once I was 12, I decided that I wanted to spend my summers doing musicals at the Wolf Theatre Academy (WTA). My first show was Beauty and the Beast in 2009 and I immediately fell in love with the program. Between 2009 and 2016 I participated in over 14 productions at the WTA and created some of my favorite memories. After graduating from the WTA, I wanted to give back to the younger theatre students at the J, so I spent my summer in 2017 as a choreographer in the Pluss Theater. After taking a one-year hiatus from the JCC, I returned as a lifeguard, swim instructor, and Fitness Desk Receptionist until 2020. Once the JCC reopened after the pandemic, I returned to work at the Fitness Center as a Receptionist. While I enjoyed my job at the Fitness Center, I felt like I was missing something. Each day the preschool classes would pass me and wish me “hello” and it made my day every time! After eight months or so of saying “hello” in passing, I decided to apply to the Early Learning School and the rest is history! 

Q: There’s a lot of history there! What’s it like to work with someone who was one of your students, Rokhsana? 

RB: It’s really nice to see her back at the JCC! It definitely felt good to hear that she wants to work here. The sweetest thing about her is that every time she comes inside my class, she asks the kids, “Guess who was my teacher when I was three?” The kids ask “who?” and she yells “Rokhsana!” It’s so wonderful to see my student grow up with a loving and caring heart. She comes into my classroom at least twice a week for a couple of hours. 

Q: And for you, Rose,  What’s it like to work with someone you’ve known almost your whole life? 

RL: It is so special to work with Rokhsana! She was a big part of my childhood and it is so great to have her as a coworker now. 

Q: How has your relationship with Rokhsana inspired you as an ELS teacher, Rose? 

RL: Rokhsana is such a kind and caring teacher, she inspires me every day to teach with my heart. 

Q: As ELS teachers, what would you say is your favorite part of your job? 

RB: My favorite part of the job is seeing the children’s smiles and listening to their fun stories and amazing ideas. Something I love about being a teacher is that while I teach them to grow and learn, they also teach me new things daily. I get to explore a bit of their cultures, their backgrounds, and the different experiences they bring to the class. 

RL: I love spending time with the kids and helping them learn and grow! Each day brings something new and exciting. 

Q: Not only do you guys have a great relationship with one another and the ELS, but you also have long-standing histories with the J! And as we know, the JCC Denver is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. How has the JCC shaped you as a person? 

RB: The JCC Denver has helped me grow career-wise. I’m really thankful for all the experiences that it has given me and for allowing me to be a part of this growing team. 

RL: The JCC Denver has been fundamental in shaping me as a person, as I have been coming here for 20 years. It has taught me countless lessons about being an active member of the community. I have had the privilege of giving back to the JCC through participating and teaching at the WTA, working and teaching at the Fitness and Aquatics Center, and now teaching at the ELS. 

Q: Finally, (we know you need to get back to the kiddos!) what’s your favorite thing about one another? 

RB: One thing I love about Rose is that she’s always ready to start the day with a big smile on her face. 

RL: Rokhsana is selfless and cares wholeheartedly about the ELS. She treats her coworkers and children with love, compassion, and kindness. I am so thankful to have a leader like Rokhsana

Thank you both for sharing your words with us! We see the important work you’re doing every single day and we can’t wait to hear even more stories about the young lives you continue to touch.