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NEED A RING?

Couey's ring has three solitaire diamonds and six accent diamonds set in 14-karat white gold. It's about a size 9. To make an offer, email her at erikacouey@walkerschools.org.

When Erika Couey won a diamond ring last week in a raffle, she wasn't thinking about how it would look on her finger.

Couey was wondering if the ring would bring enough cash to help her buy a new pottery kiln for the ceramics class she teaches at Ridgeland High School in Walker County.

"I don't have any need of a diamond ring, but I really desperately need a kiln for my classroom," said Couey, the school's visual arts instructor. "If the school had the money, they would pay for this. But they don't have the money."

Set in 14-karat white gold with 2.5 carats' worth of diamonds, the ring was appraised between $5,000 and $6,000. But Couey doesn't have second thoughts about spending all of that on a new kiln, which could cost as much as $6,000.

"Only art teachers are that crazy," joked her colleague Liz Hornik, the art teacher at LaFayette High School.

But Couey figured that by buying $100 worth of raffle tickets, she was helping Ridgeland's marching band program.

The band raffled the engagement ring, which was donated by a widowed "band mom" who wishes to remain anonymous, to help raise the roughly $25,000 needed to buy new band uniforms.

The month-long raffle, timed so the ring could be sized for Valentine's Day, raised $9,160, Band Director Rick Chambers said.

"I didn't really think I'd win," Couey said, but she went ahead, figuring, "I won't win if I don't buy any tickets, for sure."

The sooner Couey sells the ring, the better.

There's a backlog of unfired sculptures made by the 26 students in ceramics class, such as an Eiffel Tower that Couey -- who also teaches French -- showed to visitors Tuesday.

The current pottery kiln has been in the high school since it opened in 1989. It worked right once last semester, but since then has malfunctioned along the lines of Goldilocks' porridge. First it was too cold, and then it got so hot that Couey worried it might set the school on fire.

"I think it went above 2,300 [Fahrenheit]," she said. "I certainly don't want to burn down the building.

"I would like a new one. They're mostly digital now," she said. She explained that more precise temperature control would allow students to try techniques such as "slumping" glass into a mold.

"A newer kiln would be more versatile," she said.

Student teacher Corban Brauer, a Covenant College master's degree candidate who's been assisting in Couey's classroom, is impressed with her generosity.

"It's very admirable what she's doing. Very commendable, selfless," he said.

"One of the great things about ceramics or art classes in general is you actually have tangible products to take home," Brauer said. "If there's no kiln, then what's the point?"

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