HHS teacher sews new masks for students

A sewing machine sits next to a pile of cloth face masks in a home

Baby Yoda or Darth Vader? Friends or The Office? Those are some of the choices Herkimer Jr./Sr. High School students will have when they come back to school after February break. But students won’t be choosing a favorite TV show or movie; they’ll be picking out new face masks.

“It’s not fun to have to wear a mask every day, but we all have to do it, so we might as well have a little fun with it.”

Herkimer teacher Rachael Witter estimates she has sewn between 3,000 and 4,000 cloth masks since March 2020. And she decided to spend the break sewing a few hundred more to donate to students at the Jr./Sr. High School.

“I’ve noticed in the past few weeks that some of the masks students are wearing are looking a little worn down, so I thought it would be a fun little thing for them to be able to come back from break and be able to pick up a new mask,” she said.

At first, Ms. Witter reached out to her fellow teachers to see if one or two of them wanted a set of masks for their classroom. But when the requests started rolling in, Ms. Witter decided, “I’m just going to make as many as possible and make sure anyone who wants one can have one,” she said.

This isn’t Ms. Witter’s first mask-making marathon — but it all started with just one small request.

“My friend was working at a nursing home, and he said, ‘Do you think you could make me a mask?’ And it honestly just snowballed from there,” she explained.

A variety of cloth masks with different prints

One of the best things about having made so many masks, Ms. Witter said, is seeing them out “in the wild.”

“I was throwing them out to places not even really knowing where they would end up,” she explained. “I saw one of my students, who I didn’t even know yet, and he was wearing one of my masks from one of my original batches. I love seeing that.”

But, she said, it will also be fun to get to see students’ reactions as they dig through this new batch of face masks, which features “fun, funny and silly” prints and designs.

“I can’t wait to see who ends up with what,” Ms. Witter said before break, adding that she hopes something as simple as a new mask might bring a smile to a student’s face. “This is obviously a really unfortunate situation we have to be in. It’s not fun to have to wear a mask every day, but we all have to do it, so we might as well have a little fun with it.”

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