Drawings of hats next to the real custom-knitted creations from Debbie Monson

In the News: Debbie Monson on How Small Gestures From Teachers Leave Big Impressions on Students

Debbie Monson, professor at the University of St. Thomas School of Education, recently spoke with the Star Tribune about a unique project to knit custom hats designed by her daughter’s middle school special education students, which left a lasting impression.

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From the story:

Samantha Monson’s students didn’t know they’d be kicking off 2024 with their own custom-knit hats. But the Battle Creek Middle School teacher had seven colorful beanies ready for the boys in her special education class when they returned from winter break.

“We try our hardest to make school fun,” Monson said. “We want to get them to want to be here.”

In the days leading up to vacation, she asked the teens and tweens – the class is a mix of sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders – to design their own beanies on paper. She supplied them with an outline, and they did the rest. There was just one rule: The boys couldn’t draw patterns on the paper, only stripes of solid colors. ...

“It was amazing to see what a hat could do,” Debbie said.

She and her daughters plan to make the hat-knitting a yearly tradition. The three educators – Debbie taught at Harding High School in St. Paul and is now a professor at the University of St. Thomas – know how such gestures leave a lasting impression on their students. It’s why Debbie got into the profession.

“I just think my teachers made a big impact on me,” she said.