ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Allison Fritchman’s classroom at Allen High School is decked out with pink streamers, paper hearts and all things Taylor Swift.

“She’s fun, she’s exciting, she’s inspiring,” Fritchman, a special education teacher, said of the pop icon and Berks County native. “My students admire her, and I’m like, ‘Well, that’s my hook.'”

This past month Fritchman taught students social-emotional skills through Swift’s music in her independent living class, which focuses on helping students with disabilities hone functional skills like cooking, cleaning, self-care, personal development and career readiness.

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Fritchman decorates her room every few weeks to represent the theme of each new class topic. For her recent Swift-inspired social-emotional learning unit, she hung posters of the singer and her song titles around the room.

“I want my children to feel inspired as they walk into this classroom,” Fritchman said, adding she aims to create a sense of “magic” for students that “transcends into their lives.”

By analyzing Swift’s songs and music videos, students reflected on how they see themselves and how they can respond to others who may be unkind.

Students discussed bullying and how to be resilient with Swift’s song, “Mean.” Through “You Need To Calm Down,” students learned about self-regulation and stress management.

“I felt like they connected with the bullying part of it all,” said Marisa Ortiz, a paraprofessional in the classroom. “They got emotional. They know the difference between how to talk to people and how to walk away from certain situations.”

The class also used the hit “Shake It Off” as a way to promote positive self-image despite negativity from others. Students are working on a music video for “Shake It Off” and will be designing their own costumes.

“Shake It Off” is Xavier Perez’s favorite Swift song, he said.

“That one’s close to my heart,” the 18-year-old student said. “Shake off the bad energy.”

But one of Swift’s early chart-topping hits, “Love Story,” still remains the most popular song for the majority of students, Fritchman said, adding it’s one of her favorites, too.

“What makes ‘Love Story’ connect? We all want relationships, and we do talk about that in our class,” she said. “We talk about positive relationships, conflict management within our romantic relationships, we talk about red flags in relationships.”

“All of us want that belonging, that connectivity to another person,” Fritchman added. “And ‘Love Story’ is that romantic piece that Taylor sang years ago that seems to connect with our teens today.”

Students have also had other Swift-inspired activities in recent weeks like baking and art projects.

“Math, writing, reading — we integrate everything with that activity,” said Ileana Matos, another paraprofessional in the classroom. She said Fritchman is constantly coming up with creative learning ideas for class.

Students made chai cookies, a favorite of Swift’s who is also known for her love of baking, and created a cake decorated for Swift’s seventh album, “Lover,” released in 2019.

“I like how fun it is,” Carolay Sanchez, a 19-year-old student, said of the baking projects.

With Swift’s record-breaking Eras Tour, students also tracked her concert locations across the United States on a paper map, learning about different states and practicing how to spell the names of these locations. (The Eras Tour, which features performances from all of Swift’s 10 albums, is the highest grossing tour in history, bringing in more than $1 billion in revenue.)

While Fritchman is a self-proclaimed “Swiftie” — the name Swift’s fans use to describe themselves — her Swift-inspired learning content isn’t self-interested.

Fritchman isn’t new to using themes to hook students into content and encourage learning; last year she taught a unit on robotics and similarly went all out with activities and decorations. She said it’s important to integrate themes and learning into all activities, whether that’s reading or cooking.

“These students need this additional connective wiring. We all do,” she said. “When you walk into a science museum, you feel like you’re hit by all different ways to interact with science. And that’s what we do here.”

“We impact our students with multiple disciplinary options,” she added. “They go, ‘Oh well, that was really cool. That was really cool,’ and those connective wires link.”

And Fritchman isn’t the first educator to rely on Swift as a conduit for learning.

Sean Connolly, a Bethlehem Area teacher, also used Swift’s songs to teach skip counting, gaining attention for the reimagined hits on TikTok last year.

And at the postsecondary level, courses are popping up on Swift’s discography and celebrity across the country at institutions like Harvard University, the University of Florida and Penn State University’s Berks County campus.

While Fritchman’s students said they’re fans of Swift, they are more inspired by their teacher.

“She’s fun, bubbly. She reminds me of Barbie,” Sanchez said of Fritchman.

“She’s not afraid to be herself,” Jaida Wright, 17, added.

Fritchman has taught by example and created a space where students who are different feel safe.

“Some of them, coming into class sometimes, can be down,” Ortiz said. “But when they come into Fritchman’s class, their attitude changes.”

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