Even before COVID-19 became commonplace in the United States, Kathryn Schwaberow, a fifth-grade teacher in the Carrollton-Farmers Branch School District, began the process of creating masks to prevent the terrible pandemic from spreading. Schwaberow, a Fundamentals teacher at Thompson Elementary, was asked by her neighbor, a nurse, to make her a mask for work.
That one mask sparked many more healthcare workers to reach out to Schwaberow and ask for a face cover of their own. One year after the pandemic hit, she has sewn 7,600 masks for people worldwide, including 29 states and four countries. Her custom masks have been sent to nurses, doctors, teachers, and now her very own fifth-grade students at Thompson Elementary.
Schwaberow is about to finish her first year at Thompson Elementary. Before she came to CFBISD, she was an international teacher teaching in Doha, Qatar, Lima, Peru, and Mexico City, Mexico. Although she has been abroad, she is a native Texan graduating from Texas Christian University in Fort Worth.
"I am thrilled to be the Fundamentals teacher at Thompson. I absolutely love my position, my students, and my colleagues," said Schwaberow.
Schwaberow is incredibly proud of the masks she is making now for her fifth-grade students. She has recently started making "fancy masks" to pique student interests in mask-wearing as Texas moves away from masks. "At this stage of the pandemic, a year into mask making and wearing, my focus is on making sure that my students are comfortable and proud of their masks," stated Schwaberow.
She has begun to let her students take ownership of what they would like on their masks. Her students have been begging for themed masks to match their interests. The students and Schwaberow decide on the pattern, and she completes the covers on the weekend. "I use my sewing machine to make the masks and then my Cricut cutting machine to make the pattern. Finally, I use a heat press to join the two products," says Schwaberow.
The masks are double layered with a pocket for a HEPA filter, which I offer upon request, and are machine washable/air dryable. And they have become the hot commodity in fifth grade and around Thompson Elementary.
"Making the best of an inconvenience means playing on student interests and making masks fun again. My students are all very interested in Naruto and Among Us now, so I am working on fun, themed masks for their interests, said Schwaberow "They have loved the masks and take a lot of pride in having the "latest thing" in mask-wearing."
Schwaberow loves seeing the smiles on her fifth-grade students. She is proud of the difficulty they have had to overcome during the pandemic. The students continue to push through their learning challenges and are not giving up despite it being a different school year. "My fifth-grade students have been exceeding expectations on all levels. They come to school ready to learn. They push through their learning challenges and always have "can do" attitudes," stated Schwaberow.
Schwaberow continues by saying, "They have not let any of the difficulties of the year slow them down. I am incredibly proud of them. My students make me feel special and appreciated every single day, so I am thrilled to be able to do the same for them."
Schwaberow's work has been done solely by donations. The generous contributions, which Schwaberow collects through a Facebook fundraiser page called "Mask making for millions!" are used to cover the costs of fabric, shoelaces, elastic, filter rolls and shipping.
"I am so thankful to CFBISD for supporting the continuation of mask-wearing to keep our students and staff safe, and I look forward to making masks for our district as long as they are needed," says Schwaberow.
Schwaberow is married with two children. She spends up to 12 hours a day, seven days a week, creating masks.