Art Teachers Who Wear Their Students’ Creations: Part 1
Miranda Meeks is an art educator at Caldwell County Middle School in Princeton, Kentucky. She has been teaching for eight years and is passionate about using her platform to make a lasting impact. Miranda’s love of art, fashion, and creativity paired with her heart for empowering students led her to start a fun and fabulous tradition. Each year, she wears a student-made art project to the school’s awards ceremony. The kicker is that the outfit must be made from non-conventional items, challenging her students to really think outside the box. Read more about how Miranda is making a difference in art education below!
“The non-conventional challenges on Project Runway inspired me to create this opportunity for my students. I love how the concept of that challenge pushes the artists to look at things in a truly different and original way. I like providing students with extra opportunities to explore their creativity. As most schools do, we have an awards ceremony at the end of the school year. I decided this was the perfect platform for my students’ wearable masterpieces.
When it’s my turn to hand out the art awards, I make sure to sashay across the entire gym floor, just so everyone gets a chance to see (and sometimes hear) the outfit move. A good outfit needs a proper runway. Once I’m on stage, a student asks me, ‘Who are you wearing?’ This allows me to give credit and praise to the creators of my ensemble and have them stand up and receive a round of applause from the audience.
How we present and display art has such power in the levels we can elevate it to. By displaying work in a time and place of honor, it brings a sense of importance to the work and thereby, honors the artist. This can have profound impact, especially for a middle school student. Showing them their work has value translates into showing them they have value.
This year, I wore one of my student’s pieces to the NAEA Convention in Boston. I am so grateful to my district for sending me—attending has always been on my art teacher bucket list. I was so impressed by a piece that Elizabeth, one of my 7th graders, made that I told her it deserved a bigger stage than our gymnasium. Elizabeth knew I was going to wear it in Boston; what she didn’t know was that I was planning a surprise for her. At this point, she knows I love what she does. I wanted her to know other people love what she does and see potential in her, so I asked anyone who commented on the dress at NAEA to write a note of encouragement to her in my sketchbook. The response was so encouraging…though, I would expect nothing less when surrounded by amazing art educators from around the country. Being able to present that bundle of notes to Elizabeth ranks pretty high on my art teacher memories list. It is my hope that all school districts will someday understand that an opportunity and platform for their art teacher is an opportunity and platform for students; the two are not mutually exclusive. By supporting one, you support the other.
My favorite thing about being an art educator is knowing I have a chance to be for my art students what I needed at their age and didn’t get. I strive to make the art room a safe place, especially emotionally. I love seeing kids learn to not give up on themselves, or their art. Anytime a student tries to throw their art away before finishing it, I tell them, ‘I wouldn’t throw you away because of a mistake; you don’t get to throw your art away because of one.’ I love what I teach and I love who I teach—it’s that simple. The art room is where I matter and it’s where I teach kids that they matter too.”
Miranda’s dedication to her students and drive to challenge them to reach their full potential are just a few of the things that make her an exemplary art teacher. If you’d like to see more of her fabulous outfits and other fun happenings in her classroom, follow her on Instagram at @runningmyhe.art. Many thanks to Miranda for sharing her story this week!