ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – An Orange County math teacher stumbled upon a unique way to engage her students and build community in her classroom.
Laura Emig teaches sixth-grade math at Avalon Middle School. She said a casual conversation with a student one day led to students creating her makeup looks.
“She came to me one day and she said, ‘I don’t know what to draw in art.’ And I said nonchalantly, ‘Why don’t you draw me a make-up look?’” Emig said.
Emig said the student then designed an elaborate eye make-up concept. When Emig executed the look, that led to more student participation.
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Now a showcase wall is on display outside of Emig’s classroom. Emig stressed that students work on these designs at home, not in class. But she said the effects are felt in class, with students excited to get to work each day.
“It’s something for them to be recognized for that’s not academics. Som even if you struggle in academics you get recognized by your classmates and anyone in the school who walks by our classroom and can see what you did. It kind of builds a family, it builds love and kindness between the students — where maybe you wouldn’t have normally talked to the kid who drew this look, but now that they did and I’m recognizing them, that student gets kindness and love and gratitude,” Emig said.
Emig described herself as a hands-on educator, who teaches best through games, like escape room activities and partner work. She said that was difficult last year when the majority of her students were remote.
“The students were struggling so much. I would stay after school with them on the conference call. I’d schedule time after school to try to stay with them. I had parents asking what they could do to help,” she said. “I almost lost myself a little bit last year. It was so much much computer and sitting in front of the computer, and that’s not just how I teach. It was really tough to adapt my own teaching and feel like I was a good teacher last year. And for the students, it was difficult because some of them don’t learn on the computer. And to ask me a question they had to type it. And if they struggle with reading or writing being able to voice their question was almost impossible. And it was just tough. It was a really tough time.”
Emig said this “eye art project” has brought joy back to the classroom, and she will continue it as long as students want to participate. And if you’re wondering, Emig said it takes about two hours to apply some of the more elaborate looks. That’s why she only does one or two looks per week.