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Teacher who turned her students' drawings into a dress has even more creative outfits up her sleeve

Rachel Grumman Bender
Beauty and Style Editor
Elementary school teacher ShaRee Castlebury finds creative ways to inspire her students. (Photo: ShaRee Castlebury via Facebook)

An elementary school teacher who allowed her students to draw on a white dress, creating a sentimental piece of art she could wear, is at it again with more fun outfits aimed to inspire her first-graders.

ShaRee Castlebury, who teaches at Pat Henry Elementary School in Lawton, Okla., recently shared photos of several new creative outfits on her Facebook page, including one in which she hot glued books to her outfit and another in which she has colorful dice attached to her dress. “Today is focusing on counting, using dice (head-to-TOE, mind you) and dominos, so we can ACE our addition using many varieties of manipulatives! Here’s to another interactive day of MATH goodness,” she wrote.

Castlebury says that using her outfits as a teaching tool helps her reach her students in a way that goes beyond a piece of paper or written assessment. “The interactive dresses, costumes, and/or outfits create a tool that inspires the kids to want to learn and interact with learning, no matter what it entails,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “I believe anything can be made into something fun and give them bountiful, happy learning.”

She adds: “When I put my lesson or ‘engagement piece’ before the students through my clothing, they light up … and best of all, they start asking questions! That’s when I know I’m in: hook, line, and sinker. I think to myself, ‘We’ve already hit the first step in learning: engaged, attentive learners.’ And I feel successful knowing this is something they will never forget. I know without a doubt my students will take these lessons with them to the next grade.

Rather than using memorization drills, which she says can be draining for students, Castleberry uses interactive methods that she hopes will help them remember a lesson long after it’s been taught. 

“I strongly believe in order for a student to learn they must not just hear a teacher talk but they must be interested in the given topic and having a ‘want to’ to dive into whatever it is the teacher is teaching,” she says. “If I can accomplish this by leaps and bounds with 3D outfits, I’m all in. It’s my job to make sure they don’t fail but walk away with a stamp in their heads and hearts of happiness when filling their brains with wondrous knowledge.

First grade teacher ShaRee Castlebury finds unique ways of teaching her students. (Photo: ShaRee Castlebury via Facebook)

The dedicated teacher, who is also a mom, doesn’t rest on her laurels — instead, she constantly pushes herself to find different ways to inspire her students. She even came up with a 21-day challenge for herself “to be a better teacher.”

Not only for my stamina but for the stamina of the students and their ‘want’ to continually learn,” she explains. “The end of the year is hard, but that does not mean a teacher should try any less. Every day counts for these kids, and I am here to serve them as I feel I should and committed myself to do so all year long! I truly know it has helped inspire my kids, their parents, other teachers, and my precious son as well.

Others have clearly been influenced by Castlebury’s unique methods, creating their own versions of her wearable art outfits, which she’s designed for three years in a row. While some followers have pointed out that one person in particular is copying her idea and apparently taking credit for it, Castlebury takes the high road. “I have been getting so many messages from people of a ‘copycat’ but it’s okay my sweet friends, wasn’t that the point of the whole thing…to show the world my students artwork of goodness?” she wrote on her Facebook page.

She added: “I know others can take credit and do what they choose to, but I am simply blessed by knowing it was shared and more teachers can be inspired to show their kids love around the world through art.”

Castlebury, who referrers to her first graders as “little Picassos,” was touched by how much care they put into their drawings on her outfits, which often include rainbows, flowers, and hearts. “Now I can wear it to their fifth grade and high school graduations,” she says of the outfits. “I want so badly for them to know how much they meant to me.”

No doubt, they do.

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