Teachers loosen purse strings to improve class-room creativity

Amber Jones creates the same bulletin board at Hartford Christian Academy in West Hartford, Conn., every fall — the “My Story” board. She keeps it simple but engaging for her kindergarten students, decorating the bulletin board with paper images of their future selves made using her Cricut paper-cutting machine.

“The kids absolutely love their personalized paper dolls,” Jones said. “It makes them feel very special.”

Jones is not the only teacher turning on her Cricut creativity in the classroom. As more teachers open their wallets to keep their classroom environments inspiring, many are using Cricut crafting devices to keep students engaged — making bulletin boards, signs, and posters — but the creativity does not stop there.

Stacey Meckes, an eighth-grade teacher from Emmaus, Penn., uses Cricut to keep her students tuned in to her math lectures. Meckes, whose classroom is covered in Cricut-made posters and signs, uses Cricut to personalize academic awards to match each student’s interests — from Hello Kitty-inspired cutouts to “You’re A Star” badges — which she gives out to students for passing tests or for working hard in the classroom.

“I have some students who tell me they have the awards I made for them hanging in their bedroom,” Meckes said of the detailed paper crafts. “That tells you how much it means to them.”

For Linda Panattoni, Cricut is inspiring new beginnings. Panattoni, who helps find developmentally disabled adults work through AtWork!, utilized her paper-crafting hobby to create purpose and drive for 40-year-old AtWork! student Kenny Milne. In May 2010, Panattoni began working with Milne, who is suffering from cerebral palsy and is confined to a wheelchair. When Milne saw a small Cricut-made card sitting on Panattoni’s desk, his history of disruptive behavior ended.

“He was not only engaged, but excited,” Panattoni said. Milne went from hitting the machine, to using his index finger, to setting up the machine on a weekly basis. Now, Milne is selling his cards to Panattoni’s co-workers, using donated materials.

“He no longer exhibits any of the aggressive behavior that has plagued him in the past,” Panattoni said. “He has purpose; he is excited about coming in to work.”

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