Mainstream education often gets a bad rap – but sometimes you hear of teachers who go above and beyond in order to instill a love of learning in their students. Sha-Ree Castlebury is a primary school teacher in Oklahoma, USA, and has been getting plenty of attention lately thanks to her creative pursuits with her young students. Every year she turns her students’ works of art into a dress or costume that she wears for them, and hopes to wear again when they graduate (scroll down for more photos!). This annual creative costume-making sparked something for Castlebury and her teaching – she now wears costumes regularly as a teaching tool in the classroom, bringing the lessons to life.
We spoke to her to learn more about what she gets up to, and what she thinks about education in the classroom today. Oh, and to share some of her amazing costumes with you!
How long have you been teaching?
I have been teaching for 7 years. I started off teaching first grade and this year has been my first year of kindergarten [5- to 6-year-olds] and man oh man it’s a game changer. They are full of so much “spongeability”, soaking up every word as if it is a fantasy tale they get lost in.
What do you love about teaching and education?
What I love about teaching is the bright eyes that meet me as they walk into the classroom. I adore the way they interact with me as if I am some fairy tale princess waiting to give them magical powers of knowledge.
Kindergarten is a new world that has shown me even more beauty in seeing growth within each individual child. It’s not about teaching the masses but teaching to the personality and needs of EACH student. I love giving the one-on-one conversation time, even if it has to be short, to figure out what their likes/dislikes are in school, outside, at lunch, at home, etc. I make sure this is incorporated daily.
It’s not about teaching the masses but teaching to the personality and needs of EACH student.
I believe creating these personal relationships with my babies shows them the first step they need to “want” to learn, and that is feeling loved and wanted within the classroom. I can talk all day long to my students but if they don’t care about me then who is to say they are even listening? I cannot create a classroom environment of little learners if we don’t have a sense of belonging and a family atmosphere within that environment.
I only have one rule in my classroom and that is “respect” and they can translate it as they wish. It can be respect for each other, the school , the classroom, their friends, the equipment, the teachers, etc.
I love teaching because I know my room is full of so much love and the atmosphere of happiness. And if a child feels happiness, they want to hear whatever it is I have to say and they will want to respond and interact within a lesson. I love bringing life to a room just because of the way I make them feel inside of that room. If a student doesn’t want to listen, I have already lost them.
Tell us more about the costumes you wear in the classroom. We especially like the one where your students draw on your dress!
Yes, for the past three years I have started a yearly tradition of having each of my classrooms draw upon an outfit that is white. My first year was a dress and every year is a different theme. This year my theme was a Kinder “Garden” and the students created their own signature flower garden within the dress.
I keep every outfit and label them with the years and all the student signatures so they can see it and I can show them at their special events. I wear the dress at the end of the year. I also wear last year’s dress on the first day of school to show the kids what last year’s class made – so they can see what special goodness they will be a part of this year. It helps them to see how meaningful my last class was to me. It shows them how meaningful they are to me as well. It’s a great beginning of the year starter and is perfect close to the end, to allow them to feel confident and strong moving on to first grade.
See next page for more great photos!