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Kansas Woman Who Teaches ‘High Trauma’ Students Creates Lasting Memory as They Sign Her Dress On Last Day of School

It’s the end of the school year, and students are busy scribbling messages of love and well-wishes for the summer in their classmates’ yearbooks.

A teacher in Wichita, Kansas, took the tradition to the next level Tuesday when she had her entire kindergarten class sign and decorate her dress with bright, colorful fabric markers.

Ashley Hicks

Kindergarten teacher Ashley Hicks said she plans on wearing the dress at her students’ high school graduations. (Ashley Hicks / Facebook)

“I got a new dress I let them draw and express themselves through it,” Ashley Hicks, 35, told ABC’s Good Morning America” of the unique end-of-year project. “All of the pictures are kind of unique, it expresses who they are.”

Hicks, who teaches at Enterprise Elementary School, donned the custom dress on her final day with her kindergarten students. She posted pictures of herself in the wearable work of art, which featured vibrant drawings of rainbows, stick figures, and towering green trees.

“Kinder Class 2018-19” was also written on the back on large, blue letters.

The photos of Hicks went viral, and it wasn’t long before the schoolteacher (who moonlights as a bakery shop owner) was making national headlines for her creative end-of-year fashion.

“They absolutely loved it,” Hicks said of her students. “And it was kind of like a writing activity, too.”

“It was kind of hard stopping them from drawing on it,” she added.

Hicks said her idea for the project came when she was cleaning out her closet and stumbled upon an old white dress she was trying to get rid of. She remembered her time in high school when she wore a white shirt to school so all her classmates could sign it, and figured why not revive the tradition for her young students?

Hicks teaches a class of 17 5- and 6-year-olds, many of whom are considered “high trauma” students. The designation refers to kids who have behavioral issues and “kids who have been through things,” like the loss of a relative or time in foster care.

“Academics is important,” she told Inside Edition in an interview. “But with school shootings and suicides, students need to know how to regulate themselves, how to talk about things they’re feeling,” she explained. “Our staff is very dedicated to helping students.”

At the end of each year, the longtime teacher assembles little “survival kits” for each of her kids based on supplies she collects throughout the year, including bottled water and toothbrushes. Processing emotions like anger,  sadness and grief can be tough for young children, and Hicks said she was looking to offer her students a little encouragement.

“They’ve been through so much,” she said.

Hicks said she brought the sleeveless dress with her to class and gave each student space to “doodle away” on. One child wrote “I love rainbows,” while another wished his teacher “a great summer.”
Hicks said she’s been so “overwhelmed” by the response that she plans to bring in a dress for her students every year. She also told the class of 2018-19 that she would hang on to the dress until they finished high school.
“Hopefully, I plan on wearing that dress to some of their graduations when they get older,” she told GMA.
For Hicks, the dress project wasn’t only intended to create memories for her students but to also highlight the hard work of teachers across the nation.
“We have some of the hardest jobs. I think a lot of teachers don’t get highlighted, and they sacrifice so much,” Hicks added. “I guess if they have a gift and they are able to think outside of the box, share it.”

Watch more in the video below.

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