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The Cavo Chronicles

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The Cavo Chronicles

The student news site of EHS

The Cavo Chronicles

Returning to Emerson: Mrs. Staires’ Journey from Student to Teacher


Before Mrs. Staires became Emerson’s beloved art and ceramics teacher, she was in the shoes of any Emerson student. It might be shocking for some to learn that Mrs. Staires attended Emerson Junior Senior High School as a student before she became a teacher here. If you look around closely, you can even find a mural painted by Mrs. Staires near the Junior and Senior lockers. 

It was her senior year of high school when Mrs. Staires ultimately decided to become an art teacher. She always knew she wanted to do something with art and when she became close with her art teachers during her senior year, it all came together. 

Mrs. Staires majored in art in college after graduating from Emerson. She originally had her eyes set out to teach elementary school art, but that eventually changed as she found more interest in high school art concepts and the challenge it would bring. 

After graduating from university, Mrs. Staires was open to work anywhere and it just so happened that Emerson had an opening. She emailed, applied and history was made. 

Currently, as a teacher, Mrs. Staires has aspirations to build up Emerson’s art program and it means just that much more having grown up here. In this interview, Mrs. Stairs reflects on her time as a student, discusses everything she loves about Emerson, and leaves insights and inspiration for current students. 

What is different about being a teacher versus being a student at Emerson? What has changed or stayed the same? Which do you prefer?

I of course prefer being a teacher rather than a student. I love being able to connect with students as a mentor. It has also been really rewarding being a teacher here because I, along with Mrs. Rojas, get to shape the visual arts program into what we want it to be! Having been a student here, things are a lot different, and I love contributing to the positive changes the school is making in order to become a really great place for learning and growing!

Is there any advice or insights about Emerson that you can offer to students as an alum?

I always encourage students in two ways– The first is, to appreciate the small community we have here, make deep connections with the people you choose to spend time with, and the teachers you have loved learning from. The second is that because we are such a tight-knit community, it is easy to remain stuck in our safe little bubble. So I encourage students to be open to experiences outside of Emerson, meeting people and making friends outside of the cliques they may find themselves in. It is really easy to just follow the crowd here, but be bold and courageous and do the hobbies or extracurriculars that aren’t as “popular”.

Is there anything you missed about being a student at Emerson?

Again, I have always valued being in this small community, so I am grateful to be back in it, as different as it may be now. There is a lot of comfort and safety here, and I have always felt supported and encouraged, both as a student and now as a teacher!

What are your aspirations now as a teacher at Emerson? Anything you would like to improve? 

My deepest passion is for all students to feel confident and capable in their skills as artists, even those who don’t have a natural gift in it, or desire to pursue it after high school. Our world is made up of images and signs, and being able to both interpret and express things visually is a valuable skill. It is also so therapeutic to sit and create without pressure to impress someone. With that being said, I have tried to cultivate an atmosphere of freedom, safety, and challenge in my classroom. I would generally like to improve the overall social atmosphere at Emerson. I wish for this generation of pre-teens and teenagers to build deeper connections with people around them and to be more present in the spaces they inhabit, rather than use devices as a way to avoid interaction and boredom. 

What is something you’d like to tell your students? (an inspirational quote perhaps?)

Two things:

Be a blessing! Don’t miss an opportunity to add joy or beauty to someone’s day, and certainly do not detract from their joy or beauty in any way. 

This second one is longer. It is a quote I have loved for a while. It may be a little challenging to read, but I am hopeful its simple message will be clear (source is unknown, I can’t remember but I think I read it in a book!)

“There are lots of things to see, unwrapped gifts and free surprises. The world is fairly studded and strewn with pennies cast broadside from a generous hand. But —  and this is the point —  who gets excited by a mere penny? If you follow one arrow, if you crouch motionless on a bank to watch a tremulous ripple thrill on the water and are rewarded by the sight of a muskrat kit paddling from its den, will you count that sight a chip of copper only, and go your rueful way? It is dire poverty indeed when a man is so malnourished and fatigued that he won’t stoop to pick up a penny. But if you cultivate a healthy poverty and simplicity, so that finding a penny will literally make your day, then, since the world is in fact planted in pennies, you have with your poverty bought a lifetime of days. It is that simple. What you see is what you get.”

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About the Contributor
Mandy Ding, Writer
Mandy is a senior at Emerson Junior Senior High School, graduating with the class of 2024. This is her first year on the staff of the Cavo Chronicles and she is excited to interact with new people and build deeper relationships with her community. She looks forward to writing stories, taking photos, being creative, and making The Cavo Chronicles a more prominent part of the school culture. Mandy is part of the National Honors Society, National Art Honors Society, and the Unity Club. In her free time, you can find her shopping at her favorite shops, reading a book, or buying overpriced drinks.