We invite you to explore an inspired by this interview with creative leader and teacher, Kate Wells. Kate’s way of fostering her own creativity —  “I have an area in my house with plenty of space and materials to feed my creativity.”


Where do you teach:  I teach at Tunstall Middle School in Dry Fork, Virginia.  It is located in the south-central part of the state, on the North Carolina border.

How many students in your school:  There are approximately 700 students in my school, grades six through eight.
Subject: I teach English language arts and US history (1865 to present) to sixth graders.

How long have you been teaching? I tell my students that I know every trick they can think of because I have been in the sixth grade for ten years.  Prior to coming to Tunstall Middle School, I had a variety of teaching assignments in adult basic education, pre-school, and reading remediation for first and second graders.  I was born to be a teacher, but I fought my calling for a number of years.Why is creativity important to you?  In an increasingly multiple-choice, high-stakes educational environment, I feel it is essential for both students and teachers to express themselves through creativity.  Each school year, more and more students come into my classroom without the ability to “think outside the box” or to problem solve.

How do you foster your own creativity? It is truly a daily struggle to foster my own creativity. The responsibilities of life seem to be yelling much louder than the peaceful whisper of my creative muse; however, I have an area in my house with plenty of space and materials to feed my creativity.
In what ways do you encourage creativity in your students? One way that I encourage creativity in my students is through the use of our interactive history notebook.  Each day as we read and annotate our history text, we summarize the key content and concepts through drawing.  The students love to laugh at my stick cows and lumpy buffalo. When they see my drawings on the board, they students are more willing to take a risk with their own “picture notes”.
Photo courtesy of Kate Wells

Photo courtesy of
Kate Wells

How have you had your students demonstrated their creativity? My students demonstrate creativity daily through the picture notes in history. In addition, the students plan and implement a demonstration for our “Academic Showcase” night to show their parents what they have been learning in the classroom. I also have a favorite unit that I save for the end of the school year because it’s not on “the test”. As an introduction to drama, the students dig into my boxes of material for costumes, make their own props and perform fractured fairy tales or modernized myths.  It is one of their favorite units of the year!
In what ways did the Practice Creativity Challenge affect your thinking? The Practice Creativity Challenge helped me to realize that I have to be intentional about my passion for creativity.  If I try to wait for the perfect time to be creative, there will always be something more pressing that must be done first. Since participating in the challenge, my mantra (which I creatively borrowed from Cathleen Nardi) is “Practice Creativity Every Damn Day!”

What advice might you give a new teacher who is just starting out – but also wants to be creative? Trust your instincts. If you are inspired by creativity, your enthusiasm will rub off on your students.  Don’t be afraid to try doing something in a different way.Can you give us one of your favorite teaching stories (something that inspired or made you laugh/cry?)  The stories that inspire me are the everyday moments of being a teacher — like when I see “the lightbulb” go on for a student who finally understands a new concept, the student who stops to help another classmate who has dropped her books in the hall, the student who comes back by my classroom from a previous year just to say hello. These are the moments that make my day.

photo courtesy of Kate Wells

photo courtesy of
Kate Wells