As she walks past the classroom doors in Central Bucks West High School these days, Izabella Mazzenga, is quick tomugs with messages inside notice something others might miss – coffee mugs, 200 of them, in fact, that are proudly displayed and holding pens, sweets, plants, and even, sometimes, a hot brew.

Each one is a reminder for the teacher of fine arts, ceramics and digital art of a student, a gesture of community and a project that began in 2018 – before the Covid-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on her simple plan to connect students and faculty in a simple and instructional way.

“Kindness Mugs,’’ she called them then, before the effort to make and distribute all 200 of them became an exercise in perseverance as well.

Finally, during the days preceding this past Thanksgiving, those mugs were distributed to teachers, administrators, and support staff of the school.

“Oh, it just warms my heart,’’ says Mazzenga, who was hired as the school’s ceramics teacher in 2016, “It's amazing to see what I envisioned -- to see that idea finally in every classroom. To know that our students created them and that it makes the teachers feel excited -- just that feeling that we have in our CB West family of belonging. It’s just so special.’’

Mazzenga began the project in 2018 as a way for her students to express their appreciation for the work and commitment of the staff and faculty. Students were allowed to craft at least two mugs, one to take home, one to give to a teacher or administrator. Her students learned so much, she says, “because it helped them test their tiles, to experiment, to practice hand-building clay skills, cultivate creativity, and to take some risks that they didn’t have to worry about.”

colorful mugsBut the project came to a grinding halt short of its 200-mug goal when Covid-19 forced students into remote learning in early 2020. She and a fellow teacher carefully wrapped those that were already made, stored them in a closet and waited for the students to return and finish the project.

Instead, they graduated. Mazzenga, in the meantime, moved to a new role as a digital arts and fine arts educator. The project stalled until this year, when a group of current students, under the guidance of the current ceramics teacher Alison Thompson, made some more mugs, assuring that every member of the school’s staff would receive one.

Some were personalized or signed. Many were elaborate.

All were well received.

“We've received so many emails from everybody, from support staff, teachers, and administration saying how much this has made their day, proud to be part of CB West family, and how much the beautiful mugs made them smile,’’ says Mazzenga. “And that, in moments like this, they just felt so rewarded and appreciated.’’