Monday, December 22, 2014

Book Club Christmas

Friday was the last day of school before heading into our two week Christmas break so my book club ladies (who all teach with me) decided we'd have a little gathering at my place to celebrate the holidays & our friendship before heading our separate ways for vacation! I hosted the gathering because I live only 4 minutes from school which seemed like a convenient place to meet up!

For our gathering I decided to try a recipe for Cranberry Mint Holiday Punch. Three of the ladies in the group are pregnant and I thought this would be a festive and delicious 'mocktail' to serve (I altered the recipe by using a caffeine-free mint tea).  It did not disappoint!

Cranberry Mint Holiday Punch recipe

The green of the mint and lime alongside the red the cranberries makes this so pretty and festive! Some of the other punch recipes I found seemed like they would be far too sweet so I was pleased that the sweetness of this punch can be altered by the amount of seltzer water added to the mix.

Cranberry Mint Holiday Punch recipe

In addition to the preggos, we've got vegan, gluten-free, and Paleo dietary restrictions in the group so finding foods to serve that everyone can eat can sometimes be a challenge! For snacks, I served chocolate caramel pretzel turtles (using gluten-free pretzels) along with dark chocolate-dipped strawberries!

I'm so blessed to have such great colleagues who have also become such great friends! It's nice to have people in my life who 'get' what I do professionally but are also super fun to hang out with! I have no doubt that this little gathering will become an annual tradition we will all look forward to with each passing year! Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Graduation Tassel Christmas Ornament

Christmas has arrived in the land of Crafty Teacher Lady! I spent all day Sunday (and the last two nights) decorating for the holidays!! I'm hosting four separate holiday gatherings between now and New Years and so I want to make my home really special and welcoming to my guests!

I went to my favorite local farm stand to by my tree (fourth year in a row)...they sell such nice looking trees and I like to support local when I can. I plan to do a separate post featuring a little 'holiday home tour' but today I'd like to share a really clever ornament idea that's both easy and meaningful...

Graduation Tassel Christmas Ornament Craft Idea

My graduation tassels (from high school and college) have sat in a storage container basically since the day I graduated as I didn't really have much use of them after the ceremonies! By taking an expensive clear plastic ornament (purchased for $1 at WalMart) and adding my tassels, I now have a meaningful way to display and preserve these mementos.

Here's how to do it:
1) Purchase your clear plastic ornament
2) Remove the top metal piece
3) Remove the metal number from the tassel (it won't fit through the opening and into the ornament)
4) Push the bottom of the tassel into the ornament
5) Punch a small hole in the top of the metal piece (I used a leather belt hole punch purchased at a hardware store but you could use a hammer and nail or drill)
6) Thread the tassel string up through the hole
7) Thread the metal numbers with the tassel string
8) Hand on your tree and let the memories of graduation day flood back into your mind!

The tassel from my high school graduation is extra special to me now since I'm back teaching at my Alma mater! I'm going to share the idea with my senior students since I'm sure their tassels will just end up in storage otherwise! This would make a really great graduation gift, too!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Advice on Becoming a Teacher

 A few weeks ago I received the email below from one of my followers on Instagram:

Hi Kelly-Anne,

I am sending you a quick note asking for a little advice on becoming a social studies teacher. 

A little about me: I am a college junior majoring in secondary education with a concentration in social studies/history and I have an overwhelming passion for U.S. History and government! As I begin to think about life after graduation, I have been asking for advice and talking to several educators and administrators, including a few of my high school history teachers. The majority of responses I am getting are making me terrified of becoming a teacher. From the low pay, to new common core standards - I am being very negatively influenced on the profession. One of my favorite teachers has now quit teaching after just four years in the school system and has made me question my college major. I feel overwhelmed because people say teaching is the hardest job and you aren't rewarded and compensated like teachers should be. I understand that I won't become rich being an educator, and I am OK with that :) 

I am hoping you can share your teaching experience with me because you seem to love what you do, and you look so very happy! I admire you and I only hope to be the crafty teacher you are someday. 


It took me a little while to respond as it's sort of a daunting question...what advice can I give those looking to enter the teaching profession? Here was my response:


First, thank you for the lovely compliment at the end of your email...I am, for the most part, very happy in my life and chosen career!  I, too, majored in secondary education with a concentration in social studies (focusing on US History) and was very excited and passionate about my area of studies! I'd like to disagree with what others have said to you about the low pay, low recognition, and high stress, but I can't. Those are all very real downsides to this profession. I'd also like to say that I hadn't seriously considered leaving the teaching profession for some other career choice but I can't say that either because I have, at one point or another, thought about other career paths. 

I've heard and read that over half of all new teachers quit within the first 5 years (so it doesn't surprise me that your favorite teacher quit after only 4 years in) and I, too, personally know friends/colleagues who quit after only a few years. It's an extremely demanding career field where you will work harder than you ever imagined. There will be lots of days where you will work yourself ragged and will be so very patient but still wonder 'am I really making any difference here'? Some teenagers can be ruthless (I use the word 'some' because others are thoughtful, helpful, and kind) and can be very quick to complain.  It's hard to not take that personally but you will eventually realize that it's often times not really about you and really more about them.

I still remember my days as a student teacher where I would spend hours coming up with what I thought were such creative, fun, engaging lessons and activities only to have my bubble burst when some kids would still complain about what we were doing and wouldn't complete their classwork, homework, or any work at all! I almost gave up right then and there because I thought 'what's the point of working this hard if they're just going to complain'? But, luckily my mentor teacher told me he thought I was going to make a really good teacher and that I should stick with it.

Here I am 11 years later and I'm still in the trenches! So, here's the good side...if you can learn to tune out and/or tolerate the bureaucratic nonsense that is public education, the parents who enable their kids to be lazy and entitled, the increasing demands from administration to do more with less time, the aforementioned complainers, and every other person who thinks they can do this job better than you (because obviously having once been a student means one is an expert on teaching), there's a lot to love about this job.

It feels really, really good teach someone something they didn't know before (like really good). It feels really good to show a kid kindness and patience and to see them make progress and reach goals. It feels really good to laugh out loud almost every day (because my kids can be so funny, witty, and clever). It feels good to put in a hard day's work and know that your life is dedicated to serving your community. It feels AMAZING when, every now and then, you get a letter or an email from a former student thanking you for not only teaching them something they are now using in their life but for teaching them to be kind & hard working people, especially when it's from a kid whom you never expected to receive such a note.

I am a more patient, more tolerant, more industrious, more creative, more enthusiastic, and better-educated person because I am a teacher. Until the cons outweigh the pros, a teacher I shall remain!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Craft Club Magnetic Matchbox Advent Calendars

I'm so excited about starting a new club at school for students who share my love of crafting!! We had our first get-together this week and our craft project was making magnetic matchbox advent calendars for them to hang in their lockers and countdown to holiday vacation! A tutorial for making the advent calendar can be found here. It's a super easy, fun, and inexpensive project!

Magnetic Advent Calendar

I made some cute little signs to put up around the school advertising the club times and the project we would be making. I got a lot of positive feedback about starting the club from administration, staff, and students! 

Basic supplies are a ton of matchboxes (the people at the Dollar Store must have thought I was crazy for buying so many), scrapbook papers, magnet strips, and jingle bells for the top of the calendar. Glue sticks, rulers, and scissors are needed to put it all together.

I had 12 students and one teacher come to the first get-together, which turned out to be just the right amount of people so that I could easily walk around and assist if needed!

Because I wanted the students to be able to hang their calendars in their lockers at school, we designed the calendars with only 19 boxes as a way for them to 'countdown to holiday vacation' instead of counting down the days until Christmas.  We are a public high school, after all, so counting down to Christmas isn't exactly PC! Ha! They will fill the boxes with notes from friends, family, and teachers so each day they are greeted with a fun message!

DIY Advent Calendar Tutorial

They turned out SO CUTE!! And the kids had so much fun making them...we chatted, crafted, snacked, and listened to awesome '80s throwback jams!

The students have already asked when the next Craft Club meeting will be so my head is already turning with lots of ideas for projects we can make! My heart is also filled with happiness from spreading crafting joy!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

10 Outfit & Style Ideas for Teachers

If you follow me on Instagram you've probably seen my 'teacher outfit of the day' pictures, but if not, this post is for you! Although my school is pretty laid back when it comes to enforcing a staff dress code, most days my outfits are on the dressier side. Even on days I dress more casually, I try to ensure I look well put together when heading to work!

The places I tend to shop most frequently include Forever 21, Old Navy, H&M, Target, GAP outlet, and Banana Republic outlet. I do tend to find some great accessories and items at WalMart, too! I don't have a big budget (shocking...I'm a teacher so you would think I'd be rolling in the dough) but have found that creativity can really stretch ones wardrobe! The pictures to follow were all taken with my iPhone so the quality isn't the best, but hopefully you'll find some inspiration for your work attire nonetheless!

Outfit #1: Bold Color & Pattern
teacher style
The classic navy pencil skirt was only $12 at Forever 21 (I recently purchased it in gray also)! The navy belt came with a dress I purchased at WalMart but have repurposed here. The hot pink cardigan is from Banana outlet as is the lime green & white hounds tooth bow top! I went bold with the colors and think they play well off one another...don't be shy...go bold!

Outfit #2: Casual Friday
 My students said 'Miss Rush, your outfit looks like something I would wear' which I took as a compliment! Ha! I think the soft fall colors work well together here. The sweater is from H&M, the burnt orange tank was only $4 at Forever 21 (necklace is from Forever 21 as well...they have tons of fun and inexpensive accessories), boots were a splurge from my local Nine West outlet. Jeans are from Delias, a store for teens, but they have pant lengths for short people such as myself so I shop there for that reason!

Outfit #3: Feminine Neutrals
teacher outfit ideas
This is a really simple outfit but I love the soft colors and the bow detail of the neckline on the sweater. The top is from H&M, skirt is from Target, pumps are from Nine West outlet. I also have the shoes in black patent and really love how they look and feel (not too uncomfortable to be in all day). Purchasing classic pieces like the khaki pencil skirt & the nude pumps, really make it possible to mix and match my wardrobe.

Outfit #4: Fall Comfort
I LOVE this outfit because it's cute but so very comfortable! In this case, the plaid LL Bean scarf acts as a piece that ties the rest of the outfit together.  It's paired with a simple GAP outlet navy cardigan worn over a simple $13 heather purple dress from Forever 21. Navy tights and boots from Kohls finish off the look!

Outfit #5: MadMen
 I love this H&M sheath dress because you put on one item, and you're done! I felt like Joan from MadMen in this dress...classic and stands the test of time! I decided to pair the dress with a leopard print belt from Forever 21 to add a little bit of detail. Nude pumps keep the legs looking long...easy peasy! 

Outfit #6: Field Trip
 Dressing for a field trip in New England, in the rain, in November is not an easy task! It was cold and really windy and we had to walk outside around Salem all day. So, I paired my warmest blue wool sweater (purchased 10+ years ago at Old Navy) with my all time favorite Target purchase, this navy blue polka dot rain coat! Jeans are Delias and the Sperry wellies were purchased at Marshalls last year. They are warm, waterproof, and comfortable!

Outfit #7: Classic Teacher
When I think 'teacher style' I think of this outfit...a classic cardigan (Banana outlet) paired with a whimsical printed pencil skirt (Target) over a ruffle neckline button up shirt (Target). I wore this outfit for parent-teacher conferences and received lots of compliments!

Outfit #8: All About the Accessories
Here I've paired a pencil skirt from GAP outlet with classic white collared shirt topped with a navy blue Old Navy pullover. Without the accessories, the look would be a bit plain for my taste so I added a patent blue belt (Forever 21) and a gold bauble necklace from WalMart.

Outfit #9: Boho Chic
Another super easy outfit...dresses are the best! This bohemian-inspired paisley print dress from Forever 21 is paired with a belt, to cinch in my waist, and tan boots from Nine West (purchased in September). Really easy to put together but also very comfortable!

Outfit #10: Monochromatic with a Pop
And finally, a mono-chromatic look with a pop of red at the waist! This navy shirt dress from Old Navy is paired with navy tights and navy 'booties/shoeties'. I wasn't sure if I could pull off the bootie look as I'm pretty short and thought they would chop up my visual leg line. But, I think keeping the whole look mono-chromatic worked well.  This is an example of me going out of my comfort zone, albeit cautiously, to try something trendy...and isn't that what fashion is all about? Trying new things and having fun while doing it? My goal with work attire is to look put-together, conservative, and trendy all at the same time, while maintaining a strict budget!

Tell me, what are some of your favorite looks and places to shop on a budget?
Linking up to The Pleated Poppy for 'What I Wore Wednesday'!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Favorite Fall Recipes

Most of the leaves have fallen and the air is starting to turn crisp here in Maine! Autumn is arguably my favorite time of year. Between the beautiful colors, cozy warm sweaters, and pumpkin flavored goodies, it really cannot be beat! And, usually there's no snow to shovel, which is always a plus!
I have two 'go to' dishes that I serve or bring to parties. They are ALWAYS crowd-pleasers and are SO SIMPLE to make! I whipped up two dishes to share at my last get-together...
The pumpkin dip is a recipe that my friend Teal shared with was a hit at her party and so I made it for mine. It did not disappoint! Everyone loved it and, again, it's SO simple to make. It's also pretty healthy considering it's a sweet dip!

 Pumpkin Dip Recipe:
-1 15oz can of pureed pumpkin
-1 box of vanilla flavored instant pudding
-1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
-1 8 oz. tub of whipped topping
-1 box of ginger snaps

-Mix the pumpkin, packet of instant pudding, and pumpkin pie spice together with a whisk until combined. Stir in the thawed tub of whipped topping then refrigerate for one hour before serving. Use the ginger snaps to pair with the dip!

I hollowed out a small pumpkin (again, thanks to my friend Teal for the idea) in which to serve the dip! Fun and festive...and the dip is sooooo good paired with the ginger snaps!

The second recipe has become my staple for any Fall/holiday party. I've served it at my family's Christmas gathering the past few years (as well as for Fall game nights) and people CANNOT get enough of my mulled cider! It's also very easy to make and tastes so sweet and spicy! The original recipe can be found here, although I've slightly adapted it as follows...

Spiced Mulled Cider Recipe
-1 gallon of real apple cider
-3 cinnamon sticks
-1 teaspoon whole cloves
-1/3 cup brown sugar
-Captain Morgan Spiced Rum (optional)

-Wrap the cinnamon sticks and cloves in cheese cloth and place in the bottom of a slow cooker. Add the brown sugar.

-Pour the apple cider into the slow cooker (you probably won't be able to fit the whole gallon so just fit as much in as you can) and stir to dissolve the brown sugar.

-Heat the mixture on high until it bubbles, then turn the heat down to warm. This process usually takes a couple hours, so make sure you are preparing in advance!

-Serve with or without some spiced rum! I leave the rum next to the slow cooker and let people add it to their individual mugs as they please!

I'm telling you...people CANNOT get enough of the mulled cider or the pumpkin dip! 
Serve them at your next party and make your people happy! :)

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??