Thursday, September 18, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Dollar Store Fall Decorations

It's Thursday so I'm 'throwing it back' to a popular past post! This post has been 'pinned' on Pinterest nearly 20,000 times! Can you believe it?! Check back next Thursday for another peek into 'The Best of Crafty Teacher Lady'! Follow along with my daily life via Instagram! I'd love to hear from you!

I'm so excited to decorate for fall! Although on a pretty tight budget, I've found creative and inexpensive ways to add touches of fall around my house, mainly by shopping at the Dollar Store, WalMart, and other bargain outlets.



Two projects I'd like to share are a candy corn votive display and a moss candle centerpiece, both have elements found at the dollar store!

Candy Corn Votive Display
Each of the three glass candle holders are from the Dollar Store as are the votive candles and the candy corn!  Simply fill each glass half way with candy, then place the votives on top. I chose to place all three glasses in a long dish, then filled the bottom with candy corn.

Moss Candle Centerpiece
 I placed a large 'apple cider' scented candle from WalMart in the center of a glass cake stand.  Around the candle I placed moss from the Dollar Store as well as pumpkins, berries, leaves, and pine cones found at Christmas Tree Shops (one bag full for $4.99).  I did find bags of faux leaves at the Dollar Store, too! In the pictures above, you can also see the pretty table runner found at Marshall's for $10!  Next up, making a wreath for the front door...stay tuned!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

DIY Closet Shelf Makeover

My office closet was an OUT OF CONTROL mess...


When my house was built three years ago I asked the contractor NOT to build shelves because I thought maybe I'd try one of those 'closets turned desk' nooks I've seen all over Pinterest as the closet is pretty deep! Alas, that never happened and the mess just grew and grew for lack of proper shelving. One of my goals on summer vacation was to fix this problem and DIY some shelves!

Building closet shelves

I loosely followed a tutorial from House of Hepworths to figure out how to start, then went to Home Depot with my measurements and purchased two sheets of partical board. A nice gentlemen who works at HD made all the cuts for me (even the small 'bracket' pieces on which the shelves are set). I then lugged all the boards home to my basement where they received two coats of white semi-gloss paint. Because these shelves are in a closet, I don't mind the sort of 'rough' edges and look of the partical board. If I wanted a more polished look I would have chosen pine. But, the semi-gloss paint did help 'fancy' them up a bit!


To install the support pieces, I borrowed my friend's nail gun and marked all my measurements on the wall, being sure to nail into the studs wherever possible.  I have to say, it felt incredibly empowering using that gun and building these shelves ALL BY MYSELF (all whilst wearing a pink running skirt)!! Once the supports were in place, I placed the shelves on top and stood back to admire my handiwork...


I've since filled the shelves with all of my craft supplies, printer, and other office-related items! It's so nice to be able to walk into the closet and clearly see where everything is! Plus, it gives me a sense of accomplishment!  More pictures of my entire office space can be found here!

Tell me, what projects have you completed that have made you proud of yourself??

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Classroom Organization: Lesson Planning for High School

After having over 24,000 views on my first post about classroom organization strategies I've decided to write follow up posts about some other strategies I use to keep my busy high school classroom organized! I've just entered into my 11th year as a high school social studies teacher and have found that lesson planning can be complicated due to the nature of teaching multiple sections of various courses. Hopefully I can shed some light on how I keep my lessons straight for each class!

High School lesson planning ideas

Every high school has a different bell schedule and set up for when and how often teachers see students in any given week. Last year my school went to a hybrid schedule of sorts where we have 8 blocks total, but only see 6 of the 8 blocks in any given day for 54 minute classes, except on Wednesdays where we see only four classes for 80 minutes (and the Wednesdays rotate 'Odd' classes on one Wednesday, then 'Even' classes on the next). Confused yet??

Lesson planning with this sort of schedule can be very complicated, particularly when trying to keep multiple sections of the same course relatively aligned. This semester I teach two sections of Honors Senior Personal Finance & Citizenship and three sections of Academic Sophomore Modern World History (for a total of 5 sections). I plan my daily lessons in two week blocks and always ensure that all sections of one course are at the same place in terms of lessons by the end of week two (sometimes I have to build in an extra lesson or activity with one section to have this work out).


Because a standard planner wouldn't work, I took our bell schedule and created an individualized version in Word, graying out my prep and duty periods so that I can easily visualize which blocks need lessons. I put the date at the top of each day and whether it's Week #1 or Week #2 in my two-week lesson plan scheme.  Often times I'm teaching two or three different lessons on the same day because sections of the same course are at different places (all due to our lovely complicated schedule) so mapping things out on paper helps me keep things in order.


On my lesson planner sheets I write only the lesson number and a brief note indicating the topic of the lesson. Then, I use the Stickies app on my laptop to write out the more specific details of my lesson plans for each day. I find having my lessons right there on my computer desktop only a click away is very convenient and allows me to make notes and changes very easily. I will often add notes to myself about what to change for next year using italicized fonts on the same Sticky. At the end of every unit, I copy and paste the information in the Stickies to a Word document and save it so I can open it again next year and have a running list of my exact lesson plans.

Classroom Organization lesson planning

The lesson plans for each unit, as well as all digital copies, links, and resources for the unit, are kept in a digital folder on my desktop. Then the unit folders are 'nested' into a larger course folder. Everything is easily accessed and at my finger tips! I've used the 'Sticky' app for keeping track of daily lessons for the better part of 8 years (ever since being provided with school-issued MacBooks) and it has proved very convenient and easily updated! My next post in the classroom organization series will addressed an issue that plagues every secondary teacher's classroom...ATTENDANCE!!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Back to School Thrift Shopping

I spent today doing some 'back to school' shopping with a friend, hitting up Goodwill and a high-end second-hand store. I love looking through the racks at Goodwill, which does take some patience, but usually produces at least one or two steals in the form of high-end brands for less. It was my first time at Forget Me Nots, a local second-hand store.  I found some awesome deals at both places!

Steal #1: Cole Haan Sandals
These sandals retail for $100+ and I found them at Goodwill for $29!! I love the patent leather and pop of color! The warm weather we've been having lately will allow me to wear them a bit before it gets too cold!

Steal #2: Abercromie & Fitch Shirt
I don't normally shop at Abercrombie & Fitch as I find them to be overpriced and they cater to a younger crowd, but I really liked the colors of this plaid as well as the fun floral detail on the underside of the cuff. It was $9.99 at Goodwill so I bought it! It'll be fun to layer with some colorful fall sweaters.

Steal #3: LL Bean Tank
I saw this tank at the LL Bean retail store for $35 dollars but I was able to pick it up at Goodwill for $4.99! I love the pattern and can layer it with a cardi for work or pair it with shorts during the summer!

Steal #4: J. Crew Skirt
I LOOOOVE the mod pattern and colors in this skirt!! At $24.99 it wasn't the least expensive skirt but I would expect to pay $65+ for it at a retail J.Crew store. I found it at Forget-Me-Nots, an upscale second-hand store. It was far too cute to pass up!

Steal #5: Old Navy Dress
This dress was $12 at the second-hand store! The colorful pattern and fun ruffle detail are fun and flattering! The hot pink Cole Haan sandals just happen to match, too! 

BONUS STEAL: WalMart Accessories
Have you checked out the jewelry section at WalMart lately? They have so many cute necklaces, most of which are only $5-$10!! Such fun statement pieces for a steal!  

What awesome deals have you found lately??


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

What I Wore Wednesday: Nautical Preppy Style

School is back in full swing which means playing lots of dress up! I've been posting lots of outfit ideas as well as back-to-school projects and home decor ideas on my Instagram feed! I tend to post there more often then creating new blog posts so join me there between posts!

Gone is my summer wardrobe of tanks and shorts and back are dresses, cardigans, and lots of fun jewelry! I'm linking up today's outfit with Lindsay over at The Pleated Poppy! It's one of my favorites because it combines navy with a pop of glittery gold...
nautical preppy style
teacher style outfits

The top (and underlying tank) is from Forever 21...it's such a pretty navy color with a delicate lacy detail!


The white skinny jeans are from GAP...I'm short and pretty curvy so it's difficult to find skinny jeans that fit just right. These have just enough stretch and are a thick material so they aren't see-through!


The gold braided wedges are from Sperry (I picked them up on sale at the outlet last summer but just saw them again recently) and the watch is from Francesca's.


I picked up the fun hammered gold chain at Forever 21 as well! They have such inexpensive, albeit cheap, jewelry pieces! Fun to spice up my wardrobe without breaking the bank! I'm off to school! We started last week but this is really the first week where I'm actually teaching lessons! Stressful but fun to be back with my kiddos!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

$3 Personalized Classroom Stool Makeover

School is almost here!! We go back Monday and I've been busy putting things together in my classroom this week. You can follow along with my 'back to school' adventures on Instagram! Although I'm usually walking around during my daily lessons, I sometimes like to sit down in front of my classes, particularly when we are reading or when I'm observing a class discussion. I like to sit slightly higher than my students so I can easily make eye contact with them. Enter the counter stool...
personalized classroom stool

All summer I searched yard sales for an inexpensive stool that I could give a little makeover for use in my classroom. I found a basic oak wood stool for $3 (I didn't take a 'before' picture so the picture above left is basically what it looked like before it was painted)! After two coats of aqua blue spray paint, I decided I wanted to make the stool a bit more personalized by adding an initial stencil!

Silhouette stencil ideas

I used Silhouette Stencil Material and my Portrait cutting machine to cut out the stencil pattern (the pattern is 'circle scalloped' by Lori Whitlock which can be found in the Silhouette Online Store layered with a letter 'R'). After painting the stencil with white acrylic craft paint, I sprayed a couple layers of Mod Podge clear acrylic sealer on top to ensure my design stays put!

personalized classroom stool

I love how it turned out and the fact that it is both functional and will add some whimsy and color to my classroom space! This would be an awesome and inexpensive gift that any teacher would LOVE!


Silhouette is offering some awesome back to school deals for the month of August! I've used my Portrait cutting machine for the stool and MANY other projects including putting together my bulletin boards...





My next post will be a tour of my classroom with lots of inexpensive and easy ideas for classroom decor (secondary teachers can spice up their classrooms, too)!  Have a great week!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Sewing A First Day Teacher Dress

Summer vacation is about recharging my batteries and taking time to do things I love to do...mainly enjoying the beaches here in Maine (my biggest decision each day is whether to go to the lake or the ocean, ha!) and crafting up a storm! I only have two weeks left of break and since the weather this week was a bit unsettled, I decided it was the perfect time to tackle a challenging sewing pattern:
Teacher Outfit Idea
I saw this darling dress pattern and thought it would be perfect for the first day of school! I actually stood in Jo-Ann Fabrics with pattern in hand for quite some time debating whether or not I was skilled enough to sew this dress. I was intimidated mostly by the zipper and the 'Peter Pan' collar but also by the darts, pleats, and gathering at the sleeves! I decided that I would never improve my sewing skills if I didn't at least try a more complicated pattern so home with me the pattern came!

Simplicity Lisette Round Trip Dress Pattern

I chose a hot pink/light blue damask cotton fabric with a contrasting white collar. I opted to add sleeves since I'm more comfortable wearing a dress with at least a cap sleeve to school (I think sleeveless is a bit too casual for the workplace, but that's just personal preference)! I'm pretty much in love with the result...


I did have to adjust the size to get a perfect (or near perfect) fit as I'm short but curvy! I took in the sides and moved the waist up a bit in addition to taking up the hemline! 


The collar is probably my favorite part of this dress...I LOVE me a 'Peter Pan' collar!
 I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to create clean curves but I took my time when sewing and am pleased with how the collar turned out...


My classroom is usually on the chilly side as we have AC throughout our school so topping the dress with a cardi is another option! I also added a silver metallic belt (from Old Navy) for a polished look in addition to my silver strappy sandals (not pictured).

Teacher First Day Dress

It's silly to say but I feel really proud of myself for tackling this challenging pattern. I could have easily chosen a simpler dress to make and faced the uncertainty of not knowing how it would turn out (would I be wasting my time/money if I messed up?). There was a day not so long ago when all I could sew was a straight line (pillow covers were my specialty) but slowly, over time, I've increased my skills one pattern at a time! I can't wait to wear this dress as I greet my new classes of students in only a couple short weeks!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Awesome DIY Pallet Sign

I've been enjoying every second of summer vacation and have been crafting up a storm! I've seen rustic style pallet signs around the 'interweb' for a while and decided that with my trusty Silhouette Portrait machine, along with some wood from shipping pallets found in my mom's warehouse (she owns a wholesale yarn company), creating one of my own was feasible!

DIY Rustic Palllet Sign

After I had pried apart the slats from the pallets using a crowbar, I started by laying out the wood (I used 7 pieces) to see how they would best fit together. Then I flipped the pieces over so I could secure them together using $.98 yard sticks found at Home Depot. I cut each yard stick in half and used really short nails to secure 4 pieces of ruler across the backs of the slats.

How to build pallet sign

After my 'ruler braces' were secure, I used a handsaw to cut the boards on both ends to even things out. The sign can be as large or small as you'd like...the number of boards you use and length you cut your boards is totally customizable!


In order to hang the sign, I used small 'eye rings' (that's not a technical term at all, ha!) to screw into the back of the pallet and threaded picture hanging wire through each ring. I did use a small drill bit to create tiny starter holes.


Once the sign is constructed, next comes the fun part: designing your wording! I decided to use one of my favorite paraphrased quotes of Barney Stinson from How I Met Your Mother...


Cutting the letters was SUPER easy using my Silhouette machine! I used Silhouette vinyl for the letter templates (font is Arial Bold). To ensure my letter placement was correct, I used painters tape to act as guides. Then I used the scraper tool that comes with the Silhouette machine to ensure that each letter was FIRMLY pressed down. Because I was sticking the letters on bare wood, they tended to not want to stick...so press firmly! Then, take your sign outside and mist with a light coating of spray paint.  Gently peel each letter away and your left with a fun, rustic, one of a kind sign!


I was actually intending for this sign to go in my classroom but I loved the finished product so much that I decided it had to hang on my wall at home! Perhaps before summer's end, I will make a second sign to take to school!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Teacher Summer Camp

I just returned from a week-long professional development AP Summer Institute at St. Johnsbury Academy in Vermont! It...was...AMAZING!! I was in the US History seminar and learned so much about the newly revised APUSH exam as well as many quality social studies instructional strategies and lesson ideas. I met and connected with educators in a variety of disciplines from all over the country.


Each day the seminars ran from 8am-3pm during which the focus was on how best to teach an AP course as well as how best to prepare students for the AP exam. In the case of APUSH (AP US History), the exam format changed pretty significantly so there were many teachers in my seminar who have already taught APUSH but were there to learn about the new exam.

The institute was hosted by St. Johnsbury Academy, which is a small private prep school. The campus is adorable and the facilities are top-notch. We were housed in the dorms which were nice and brought back memories from college! I snapped this picture of one of the charming buildings on campus (I really loved the colors and architectural features)...

St. Johnsbury is a small, quaint little town in the mountains of Vermont...the surroundings are breathtaking!


(Main Street, St. Johnsbury...how cute are those buildings?)

After each day's work, we were offered a variety of afternoon and evening activities in which to participate that highlighted the region's geography and culture. The first activity I participated in was skeet shooting! I'm not really a 'gun person' or a hunter but I think it's important to try new activities and get out of your comfort zone every now and then! It was actually pretty fun and most of the people who participated in this outing were first-timers, too!


On Tuesday we went to the nearby Milarepa Tibetan Buddhist retreat center and had a lesson and Q & A session about Buddhism from a gentlemen who has been practicing the faith for over 30 years. It was informative and made me realize I need to practice more of 'quieting my mind'!


On Wednesday the weather cleared up, thankfully, and we went on a hike up to an old fire tower on the top of Burke Mountain. It was pretty steep but the views at the top were spectacular!

On the last afternoon I went on the excursion to Dunc's Mill, a local man's distillery, where he uses Vermont products, like maple, to infuse and produce rum. He gave us a tour and a run down of the basic distilling process, which the chemistry teachers in the group loved!! And the whole group loved the fact that he gave us samples of each kind of rum! Delicious!!


After we left the distillery we headed to a farmer's market where the rum and a variety of other local Vermont products were being sold. Fresh baked breads, cheeses, ice cream, and produce were among the goodies. I was able to pick up a beautiful bunch of sunflowers, which are brightening up my kitchen counter since my arrival back home!



On Thursday night there was a 'farewell' cookout complete with a DJ, dancing, and a bocce ball tournament. The cuisine being offered all week for every single meal was incredible. Steak tips, crab legs, omelets made to order, and dessert...dessert...dessert, among other culinary delights! I'm sure I've gained at least 5 lbs despite being pretty active all week!


Our APUSH seminar teacher, Jerry (with the baseball hat), was not only able to provide us with first-rate instruction all week during our sessions but is also apparently an expert balloon artist! He busted out the creations above during the farewell bash!

I just can't speak highly enough about this experience and the first rate facilities, cultural experiences, and instruction! It's really important for teachers to be able to participate in professional development opportunities to not only connect with other educators but to be able to take new instructional strategies and lessons back to their classrooms. I was really able to look at my current curriculum, and not just the honors/AP course but all of my courses, and find ways to introduce more analytical thinking skills and historical documents, both primary and secondary. I always feel refreshed and excited to get back into the classroom and practice what I've learned whenever I come back from a professional development conference! I HIGHLY recommend this particular AP institute as it was an incredible experience...teacher summer camp is awesome!!