From left, RRMS fine arts teacher Jordan Diggs and her artists: Lacy Endris, Angelina Arredondo and Katie Barraza. Photo by Gary Herron.

Usually, the only messages you’ll see in a public bathroom — other than graffiti — are reminders to turn off the lights or for employees to wash their hands.

At Rio Rancho Middle School, the girls’ restrooms are being “messaged” frequently, thanks to fourth-year fine arts teacher Jordan Diggs’ mission to get positive messages in front of the students. The individual stalls have messages, but on the walls are larger, bolder messages like, “If you were a flower, I’d pick you.”

Next year, she said, the boys’ restrooms will get messages.

Why the bathrooms? (Don’t think students’ art isn’t evident in the hallways — it’s all over.)

“The bathrooms are a place that every student uses, no matter what grade, so it is a great place to put positive messages that might reach a student who needs a pick-me-up or a reminder to not give up,” Diggs said. “It is a two-year mission to increase positivity within our school community and beautify our campus so students feel deterred from vandalism.”

Saguaro cacti don’t grow in New Mexico, but Rio Rancho Middle School’s female students can see them in one of their restrooms. Here, eighth-grader Katie Barraza paints while art teacher Jordan Diggs watches. Photo by Gary Herron.

For now, she has a handful of cheerleaders, three of whom spent a Friday afternoon after their classes painting.

“I am an artist,” she said, enjoying sculptural weaving in fiber arts, “but I’m primarily a painter.”

She’s also working on master’s in art education.

Diggs said that when she was growing up in Texas, her middle school years were a difficult time.

“I was trying to understand my place in the world, (trying to) please my parents, fit in with my peers and just survive,” she explained. “It’s rather ironic that the time I hated most in my life — middle school — is where I spend a majority of my adult life now.

“But I see it as my mission to make this ‘weird’ time in my students’ lives not so bad. I like the idea of making the art classroom and our school campus a place where students want to be,” she said. “This creates an environment of engaged students who want to learn. Having positive messages around our school campus creates an understanding of respect for our building, each other and ourselves.

“While we are trying to teach our students at RRMS academic curriculum, I think it is a general understanding that teachers want our students to be molded into good people who will contribute to society in a constructive way in the future.”

RRMS Principal Lynda Kitts said the school is fortunate to has Ms. Diggs and other teachers who create a “pay-it-forward vibe” among students and staff.

“Ms. Diggs’s latest project includes working with art students to not only help beautify our campus, but also to provide uplifting, positive messages for our students,” Kitts said. “Our students are excited to participate in building community, while showcasing their many talents. (She) continues to inspire our students to leave positive footprints.”