Kathryn Speeg brings New York fashion experience to the NHHS scene as a costume designer


By Jenn McCulloch/Zip06.com • 2/16/2022 8:30 AM EST

Growing up in Wallingford, Kathryn Speeg has always been intrigued by fashion and design. After graduating from Marist College’s fashion program, Kathryn spent more than 10 years working as a women’s activewear designer in New York City. As much as she enjoyed her career in New York, when she and her husband, Steven, started a family, they decided to move back to Wallingford.

Today, Kathryn shares her experience and passion for the fashion industry with students at North Haven High School as a teacher in the school’s Family Consumer Science program and as a volunteer designer. for the school’s spring musical. She and her team of students are currently putting the finishing touches on the costumes for Mamma Mia!, which is scheduled for four performances Thursday through Sunday, March 3-6.

“When I was hired here, I saw that North Haven High School had these elaborate musicals, so when I joined the school, it was only natural to help with the costumes,” says Kathryn. “I started a costume club involving students to do costume design.”

Kathryn and her costume team of half a dozen college students spend three nights a week working on costumes and designs for the show. Now that production is fast approaching, they’ll be spending more time with the cast to put the finishing touches on the costumes. During the show, the team helps cast members make changes behind the scenes.

Kathryn is thrilled to see the curtains rise on Mamma Mia!, especially after having to take a break due to COVID. The last show she worked on was Phantom of the Opera, which played just before the 2020 COVID shutdown.

Kathryn’s work on the North Haven High School plays isn’t the first time she’s been involved in costume design. When her children – Meghan, 19, Noah, 16, and Cooper, 14 – were young, they showed an interest in the arts, just like their parents. As they began to get involved in school plays, Kathryn was quick to volunteer to help with the costumes. Kathryn also used her skills in fashion and costume design, as Meghan was also involved in dancing.

As her children grew older, she decided to explore options to advance in her career. Kathryn took evening classes to earn a degree in Family and Consumer Sciences as well as a Masters of Education in a combined program at St. Joseph’s University.

“I knew there was a need for teachers and there were plenty of schools in Connecticut with family and consumer science programs,” says Kathryn. “North Haven has an amazing career education program and I’m lucky to be a part of it.”

When Kathryn joined the faculty at North Haven High School, she started by teaching a sewing class. Kathryn is part of the Consumer Science department, which also includes Interior Design, Culinary Arts, Automotive Technology, Carpentry Shop, CAD and Child Development with her own preschool.

“We’re lucky to have such a large department,” says Kathryn. “It’s all about hands-on learning and creativity. Hands-on learning and visual learning are so important. So many students don’t excel in standardized tests, reading, or repeating, so this is their chance to excel. They have a break, a time to use their hands and think outside the box creatively, and it’s great to see so many of them excelling in that department.

She has since helped build the fashion curriculum to include a fashion, sewing and design course, an advanced course and an independent study option. She also helped add resources available in the classroom, such as sewing machines, mannequins, etc.

“Kids love it and the numbers are going up,” says Kathryn. “We built it a lot.”

In the introductory lesson, Kathryn teaches students how to use the sewing machine and take the correct measurements. The first project is the creation of pajama pants. In the advanced class, students are tasked with creating a recycled jacket. Kathryn has seen students turn old pairs of blue jeans into denim jackets, a tuxedo into a motorcycle-style jacket, and more.

Although the program has grown tremendously in the six years that Kathryn has been involved, she hopes to continue adding to the offering in the future. She hopes to see a third level of mode added to take before independent study.

“With the STEAM requirements for graduation, I hope others will look into courses like this,” says Kathryn. “The fashion industry is a billion dollar industry that is only an hour from our home in New York.”

Kathryn enjoys sharing stories from her time working in New York with her students. She often talks to them about her time volunteering to dress models backstage at fashion week, her semester abroad in London, and the glamor of the red carpet.

“I love the creativity and inclusiveness of fashion,” says Kathryn, who enjoys traveling and returning to New York to see Broadway plays. “It’s open to all kinds of people and lifestyles and never judgmental. I like to share how my college was like Project Runway and I try to bring that to them and the play is one way I can do that.

Now two weeks away from opening night, Kathryn is focused on finalizing the “1970s vibe” for the characters of Mamma Mia! She can’t wait to see all the pieces put together for the production, which her family attends every year.

“It’s good to be able to share with them and they’ve helped where they could in the past,” says Kathryn. “Even though I’m just a pawn in the wheel, seeing it all come together and the students becoming these characters is by far one of the proudest moments I have had as a teacher.”

For updates, follow North Haven High School’s Mamma Mia on Facebook.

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