Professional Practice

The Best Dressed Art Teacher You’ve Ever Seen!

No, this isn’t an article about the latest in fashion trends, but it IS about clothing AND art education- Go figure! When I stumbled upon Cassie Stephen’s blog, I KNEW you would all love her creative, art-inspired outfits she wears in the classroom as much as I did.

You see, this year in her art room, Cassie has a goal to create (yes, from scratch) a famous painting themed outfit for herself for each of the monthly artists she teaches. She is no stranger to creating fun and thematic outfits for her classroom, as you can see below (notice the one with the LED lights on it – Amazing!)

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However, the idea for an outfit each month started with Hokuasi. After painting and hanging a large replica of ‘The Great Wave” outside her classroom door, it hit her like a ton of bricks (or as she says, a “Great Wave”) to try this with every monthly artist she teaches school wide. How does she fit in an artist per month school wide? It can be tricky, but at some point in the curriculum (even if it’s just a short activity) she will expose the students to that artist in some way. She also has a yearly geographical theme (this year is Asia) school-wide. Some grade levels also complete a full mural, as seen below in the Andy Warhol Soup Can mural completed by 4th grade students. I love the way she plans, isn’t it fun!?

So far this year Cassie has created an Andy Warhol – inspired Campbell’s soup dress and Jackson Pollack Splatter piece, along with her Great Wave dress.

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In response to her ‘untraditional approach’ Cassie says:

“One of the biggest things I like to stress in my art room is that each of the children is an artist and as such they are all unique. Creating art is about being different. They know that just by looking at me in my dorky pencil shoes and paint splattered dress! By learning about a wide variety of artists, the kids discover that there are endless ways to express yourself, but the true joy comes in finding what makes you, you.”


Not only this, but Cassie enjoys using the outfits and ‘extras’ as a way to build excitement and help students make connections to what they are learning in the art room.  In fact, some of her students have even followed suit. She had a fourth grader crochet her own mini-beret, a third grader paint a montage of art supplies on a t-shirt and a first grader dress as her for What-I-Want-to-be-When-I-Grow-Up-Day which entailed crayons and pencils in her hair and a giant palette on her shirt.

One of the most popular questions Cassie receives is “How do you find TIME to do all of this?” She answers by saying,

“I am actually a complete time-waster but not having any of the three “C’s”, which would be Cable, Children or a Clean House, actually gives me more free time than most. AND there is coffee in my life. That certainly does help.”

It’s obvious that Cassie is inspired, motivated and having FUN with her job, which can be an huge challenge for many teachers in this educational climate. She mentioned that her first few years of teaching she worked strictly on lesson plans, reading books, creating posters and displays and it burned her out. She wasn’t creating anything for herself, and it was not as enjoyable. When you are passionate about what you are teaching it will be contagious. And the rest is history…

In fact, the next thing you know, you might be wearing a gnome dress while teaching a gnome lesson!

Thanks Cassie for sharing your talents with us – you are an inspiration to us all! Psst. If you want to see more from Cassie she will be presenting a session at the AOE Winter Online Conference in January. Learn more here.

How do you incorporate excitement and passion into the lessons you teach?

What questions do you have for Cassie? 




Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.


Jessica Balsley

Jessica Balsley is AOEU’s Founder and a former AOEU Writer and elementary art educator. She is passionate about helping art teachers enhance their lives and careers through relevant professional development.

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