By Jeff Harrison
An elementary school bathroom is an unlikely place to find inspiration and beauty.
But that’s exactly the case at Tinker Elementary School thanks to the hard work of a parent.
Laura DePriest, a mother of four students at the school, spent several weeks this summer painting inspirational quotes and artwork on the school’s bathroom stalls. The eight bathrooms have different messages designed for the grade levels that use them.
DePriest estimates she spent 200 hours on the project. That included some 8-10 hour days, much of which were spent crawling around bathroom floors.
“I got to know the janitors pretty well because they were the only other ones there sometimes,” she said.
Like many at Tinker Elementary, the DePriest are a military family. Laura’s husband serves as a physician’s assistant in the U.S. Army and is pursuing a master’s degree in public health from the OU Health Sciences Center. The family lives on base at Tinker and will only be here through the end of the school year.
DePriest said she is honored to help brighten the day for Tinker students, including many who come from military or low-income families.
“The bathrooms are so bright and colorful and welcoming,” she said. “I think all kids at this school need those happy messages. Honestly, it was a huge honor to be asked.”
Principal Ashley Glover found the idea on Pinterest and recruited DePriest.
“She is an awesome artist so I talked to her about it,” Glover said. “We bought the paint and she worked on it for three weeks in the summer. Sometimes
the building wasn’t air-conditioned.”
DePriest selected the quotes and messages for the bathrooms. She finished painting before school began, but said she wants to add more artwork to the project.
“I liked doing the letters but I would like to add a more personal touch too,” she said. “I want to fill in some of the empty spaces and express myself artistically.”
Glover and DePriest also painted support pillars outside the school to look like the books. They feature Harry Potter, James and the Giant Peach, Number the Stars and other popular books.
DePriest also showcases her artistic talent through her custom cake business. She bakes and decorates cakes for all occasions, including for staff. DePriest also serves as an instructor for wine and pallet painting classes, and a juice and painting class for children.
The busy mother also regularly volunteers at the school, and is active in Boys Scouts and youth soccer.
“My mom was a teacher and my husband and I are big supporters of public schools,” she said. “We love Tinker Elementary and volunteer as much as we can.”