Teacher’s Pet Projects

A legion of blog and Instagram followers keeps up with Kelly-Anne Rush’s DIY endeavors.

Photographs courtesy of Kelly-Anne Rush

Craft Teacher Lady in her classroomKelly-Anne Rush has grit. Talk to her long enough about any of her favorite subjects — frugality, Yankee ingenuity, DIY undertakings, house flipping, side hustles, teaching personal finance to teens — and she will likely use the word more than once. At Windham High School, where she teaches social studies, she’s Ms. Rush. On the internet, where she has more than 10,000 Instagram followers and a well-trafficked blog, she’s Crafty Teacher Lady, champion of self-reliance and living well on a teacher’s salary. How does she juggle the demands of the classroom and an emergent lifestyle brand? Grit, says Rush: “I work my butt off. That’s it.”

Rush started blogging in 2007, when she bought an outdated condo in Windham and got to work tearing out orange shag carpeting, documenting her efforts for a small audience of friends and family. She kept it up after upgrading to a house a few years later and after investing in a house to renovate and flip. She started posting her other crafty projects — homemade Christmas decorations, trash bags for her car made from shower curtains, Goodwill finds transformed with a sewing machine into haute couture — and gradually, her audience grew.

A before and after photo of Rush’s bedroom, to which she added plank board on the walls (painted Sherman Williams Window Pane).

These days, Rush’s blog is heavy on before and after shots from home renovation projects (her own home and others’ — she moved into yet another fixer-upper last year and occasionally helps out friends and family), along with crafting tutorials, selfies with budget style tips (she’s an unabashed frequenter of Target and Walmart), and roundups of curricular and classroom resources. Her wardrobe selfies usually showcase her cute and preppy personal style in her social studies classroom, alongside school desks, maps, and a whiteboard. Her students, Rush says, think it’s cool that their 37-year-old teacher has a side gig as a social media influencer.

“I always tell my students that I’m not an expert,” Rush says. “I use tutorials because I like figuring things out.”

Rush’s skill set goes way beyond pairing tall boots with flippy dresses and denim jackets. She’s as good with a nail gun and a chop saw as she is with a needle and thread. She can reupholster with the best of them. She knows how to revive old things, and she pads her income by restoring and selling old furniture.

In her living room, Rush painted her brick fireplace and accented it with a clearance-rack cotton ball wreath. 

The dresser in Rush’s guest room is a repainted Goodwill find, accented with a garage-sale painting. 

In her dining area, she sanded and stained a thrift-shop table, then repainted the base and chairs to match.

Since 2013, Rush has taught a course in civics and personal finance that’s required for all graduating seniors. On the syllabus, it’s about budgeting, banking, understanding a pay stub, and managing debt. More broadly, it’s about living practically in the world — “adulting,” in millenial parlance — which is something Rush says she’s still learning through all her home and design projects. “There is always more to learn and a way to make your dreams happen,” she says. “It just takes grit.”