WCMS teacher makes masks for students
Sharon Gumhold, a seventh-grade math teacher at Whitehall-Coplay Middle School, knew it was going to be a challenging school year with the country in the midst of a pandemic. Students were returning to school in the fall, following a spring hybrid educational model, two days a week in school and three days of virtual learning.
They had to adapt to wearing masks for hours each day and follow social-distancing protocols while trying to maintain friendships with peers and interact with teachers.
Gumhold quickly noticed some of her students were wearing the same mask two days in a row. She has a passion for sewing and had already made more than 300 masks, so she decided to make a mask for each of her homeroom students. After receiving permission from the administration and parents, Gumhold got to work.
She had become so experienced in mask making, she was able to sew approximately five per hour. Gumhold devoted six hours one weekend to making masks for her students, producing some extras in order to give her students more of a selection.
“The students did seem excited to get their pick of mask,” Gumhold said. “One kid was a huge ‘Star Wars’ fan. I was so happy to have the perfect mask for him.”
Gumhold grew up watching her mother sew, embroider and knit and quickly discovered her own love for embroidering and eventually counted cross-stitching. After realizing how many counted cross-stitch projects she had decorating her home, she decided to try something new.
“About 20 years ago, I decided to teach myself how to quilt. This is my passion! I love making baby-size quilts since they are so portable and do not take ages to complete,” Gumhold said. “This love of quilting drove me to have to master how to sew.”
Her first sewing machine was a Husqvarna Viking purchased for her by her husband. Two years later, he gave her an embroidery machine, so she could keep up with an increasing number of orders for personalized baby quilts.
Gumhold made her first masks in response to a request for donations after the pandemic began in March 2020. People began asking if they could buy masks from her, but she was unable to obtain the necessary fabric due to store closures. After the craft stores reopened, Gumhold purchased Eagles, Steelers and Giants prints and was overwhelmed by orders for masks.
While she wasn’t teaching remotely, she spent early mornings, late nights and weekends sewing masks.
“Some of my favorites included Giants masks for my former student, Saquon Barkley, embroidered with his number 26, and many other fun prints,” Gumhold said. “I also was honored with making the masks for this year’s Homecoming king and queen at Whitehall.”
Gumhold said she misses teaching her students in a traditional manner, but she knows that protecting students, co-workers and families is what is most important.
“My kids mean the world to me, and if this little gesture keeps all of us healthy and safe, it was definitely worth the time it took to make the masks,” Gumhold said.