LOTW Spread: How Andover Teachers Use Fashion to Connect with Students in the Classroom

Whether it be social justice t-shirts, berets, or mythical monster dresses, Andover instructors Elena Dugan, Deborah Olander, and Erica Nork share the ways they use fashion as a tool in the classroom. Often having statement pieces like historical earrings or a bright blazer, all three teachers find new ways to spice up their fashion each week.

Elena Dugan, Instructor in Philosophy and Religious Studies

This dress feauring a variety mythical creatures is one of Dugan’s favorite.

Describe a favorite outfit that you’ve worn.

“Usually, I’ll pick a pair of earrings and then I’ll try to get an outfit that kind of works with it…I have earrings that have ghosts [and] Bigfoot on them…they’ll be different colors. There’ll be some days where I know that I’m going to be doing things that might ask me to be a little more serious, or that might ask me to be wearing things that asked me to be one kind of way…and then there’ll be days where maybe I have something more fun or more silly planned, and I can wear bright colors or something like that. So I like the idea that fashion is a way of helping you figure out how you’re going to walk around, how you’re going to move through the world that day.” 

How and why is fashion important to you and your lifestyle?

“I have this dress that has little creatures and monsters, but I think it’s a very pretty and a very classic looking dress. It looks like a silhouette from the 19th century, but it just has these funny creatures all over it.” 


Deborah Olander, ‪Instructor in Mathematics, Statistics, and Computer Science 

Olander dresses for comfort as a priority.

Can you take me through how you put together an outfit each day?

“I go for comfort, and I also usually check out what’s happening with the weather. And then I might work from the bottom up, I might decide what shoes I want to wear that day, what pants are going to go with those shoes, [and] find some sort of layer to go with that on the top. And I would say I have a lot of black clothing, either bottoms or tops…”

Are there any special days or holidays where you specifically wear something unique? How and why would you say fashion is important to you and your lifestyle? 

“I like to wear a T-shirt on the day that I see all my classes, and I have lots of different message shirts, but they’re usually around social justice. ‘Feminist,’ ‘the future is non binary,’ ‘Black Lives Matter,’ ‘it was never a dress’… those [messages are on] different shirts that I have. I usually wear those on Monday…I would say that I would still pretty much trend towards a feminine gender expression, but it’s just interesting to think about what that means and what that’s meant [in] how I dress. I would say I probably go more for comfort now than an expectation that a woman would wear.”


Erica Nork, ‪Teaching Fellow in History and Social Science 

Nork’s tie and necklace, along with the rest of the outfit, showcase a
70s-history-teacher aesthetic.

How do you think you came to develop your style and how it connects to your teaching history?

“I would say dressing almost a little anachronistically, it makes me feel like a history teacher, dressing like how I would imagine a history teacher in the 70s or whatever at the school would have dressed. I totally forgot to mention my biggest fashion inspiration, Abbot Academy yearbooks, a hundred percent. [In] Abbot Academy yearbooks from the 1960s through the 70s, everyone’s style is amazing. It’s like all these incredible outfits…”

“Sometimes school can be stressful and a little tense and especially the beginning of terms when we’re all getting to know each other, I find that if I’m wearing something that’s a little bit of a statement or something that’s a little bit like, ‘oh, you’re wearing a beret,’ sometimes students will comment on it. I feel like that’s almost a way to break the ice and also maybe hopefully have students feel like they can also similarly dress and/or express themselves in that sort of way. I think dressing like I do feels like a really integral part of how I like to operate as a teacher.”

Describe a favorite outfit that you’ve worn.

“I do have a favorite outfit. It’s this green and blue blazer that’s plaid and tweed…And then I have a black silky shirt that has a little tie, and then I’ll wear black pants, and I have these shoes, I call them my monk shoes, with some of my favorite earrings, especially to teach history. [The earrings are] these little Greek vases, they’re small and kind of subtle, but they’re little ancient Greek vases and I really like that.”