Mary Beth Kissling: Stamp Teacher
What if you could provide an extra bit of happiness to two people you have never met while at the same time supporting breast cancer research?
That is the goal of Mary Beth Kissling’s Stamp Out Breast Cancer class in the Osseo School District adult education program. For one evening in early October, 15 stampers of all experience levels come together to create four cards in a single evening. Two of the cards are brought home by the students of the class, while the other two are donated to Hope Chest for Breast Cancer—a second hand and donation-based retail store that supports breast cancer research—where the cards are sold.
Six years ago, Kissling says, she was at a fundraiser for breast cancer research, when she discussed with Barbara Hensley, the founder of Hope Chest, the possibility of combining their efforts. “She was very receptive and very appreciative,” Kissling recalls. “I was already teaching in the community ed circuit at the time and not one of the districts in which I taught turned me down.”
Hensley recalls the suggestion from Kissling fondly. “Her art is what she can do to make a difference,” Hensley says. And that is true for the members of the Stamp Out Breast Cancer class, too. Hensley says they are “doing something that will have an impact in the lives of women touched by breast cancer.” And she does not have any trouble selling the cards, either: “The handmades [cards] are spectacular. People adore them.”
Kissling has been teaching a stamping class for the Osseo school district for eight years. She was an English and French major in college, but she says she has “always loved crafts and any expression of creativity, sewing, cooking, gardening, all of that.”
Anybody in the community can sign up to take these classes, says Amy Brengman, community education coordinator for the Osseo School District. And that includes people of all skill levels. “I gear all my classes so no experience is needed,” Kissling says. Brengman says people who are new to stamping sign up each year. “But Mary Beth has a lot of people who follow her classes as well,” Brengman adds. “She is very popular.”
Kissling’s love of creativity led her to stamping in 1995, when the phenomenon reached a heightened popularity in Minnesota. Not only does stamping allow for creative expression, but Kissling likes that anyone can get involved. “It’s the perfect outlet for someone who isn’t artistic in the purest sense of the word,” she says. “You can take somebody else’s extremely creative artwork and make it our own. That’s what I love about it.”
And this guidance is not just for her students. Kissling even considers herself less than “artistic in the purest sense.” She says, “I could never come up with the drawing itself that went into the stamp, but I love using other people’s creative touches and putting my own twist on it.”
Kissling also puts her own twist on leading each class by creating a fun atmosphere of camaraderie, which turns classes into a rich social experience for all involved. “That’s the beauty of community ed,” she says. “At the end of the day, it’s a nice way to unwind and socialize with people you see month to month.”
Kissling enjoys teaching all her stamp classes, but it’s easy to see her real passion is in Stamp Out Breast Cancer. “You get to know your neighbors,” she says, “but we pay it forward a little bit, too.”
The Stamp Out Breast Cancer class (7–9 p.m. October 3–4 at Osseo Junior High) costs a $5 supply fee and requires registration through the Osseo School District's community education program. Students are expected to bring scissors and paper-friendly adhesive glue (not Elmer’s) or double-sided tape. All other supplies will be provided. More information on Kissling’s classes can be found on the Osseo School District’s website.
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