A Space for Creativity to Bloom: Classroom Makeover Via Donors Choose

Your sacred space is where you can find yourself over and over again.”

-Joseph Campbell

I have had many different classroom configurations in the past 20 years. Each year I like to change things up a bit. I believe that the environment of a classroom has a huge impact on how students learn.

If these walls could talk what would they say? I’ve ruminated over this question often. Year twenty-one teaching in this classroom. Hours of discussions logged, inquiry, questions, and projects. We’ve laughed, cried, and have even grown frustrated with each other. We are human beings in this classroom – full of frailty and potential. Hope and dread. Dreams and ambitions. I try to encourage my students to believe their stories matter. Our voices and being able to communicate clearly are vital. Hopefully, the take away has been growth, deeper understanding, and the curiosity to keep creating.

I put in over 6 hours on my classroom yesterday and several hours each day this week. I had a huge pile of boxes arrive from Donors Choose Some of the supplies for my Lunch Bunch Club (salad fixings and a snazzy new retro styled refrigerator and microwave) came in, plus, new standing desks. The tall tables are commercial grade, metal, and super sturdy. I actually ordered black ones, but they were no longer available. So I had to get red. I’m thankful – because I think the red is fabulous! The students can stand or have the option of two different stool heights (based on how tall they are). I even put the tables together myself (I didn’t dare ask my husband – who usually puts my furniture together- because he is busy building an addition on our house).

I had several projects on Donors Choose funded to start a club with my students to help them learn about food from different ethnic traditions. We had 37 cookbooks donated, cooking tools, disposable plates etc., and ingredients. Since we live in a rural area my students have little exposure to food from different cultures. We will break bread together, make connections, learn valuable culinary life skills, research different cultures, and engage in food writing. I promise to share a more detailed blog post once we get started.
Bright red & retro. I can’t help but smile – it feels so cheerful!
These tables were easy to install. Each one took approximately 15 minutes. I had 7 donated in a Flexible Seating project by Donors Choose.

While I’m exhausted after a busy week of professional development and getting back into my school mindset, I’m excited to welcome my students into our classroom Monday.

It’s a relief to have flexible seating back after last year’s more rigid rules due to the pandemic. I had to bring in desks so all my students could face the same way. I was so happy to haul those desks out. I still have some finishing touches to add – and more boxes are on the way for our Lunch Bunch.

Donors Choose has been life changing and I am extremely grateful for the kindness of friends and strangers who help me transform my classroom into a magical and beautiful space. Not just the furniture either – books, school supplies, and all of the creative projects and opportunities I’m able to give my students. Here’s to year #21. I can’t wait to start encouraging my students to write, read, record the world, and think critically. Our words and our stories matter!

The tables turned out to be more than I had hoped for. The “Where’s Waldo” themed artwork was created by a former student. When your last name is Waldo, like mine is, you have to beat people to the punch. I can’t tell you how many times I (and my husband his entire life) have heard people say, “Where’s Waldo.” 🙂
A life-sized Waldo. Courtesy of Donors Choose!
Several years ago I had these futons and colorful rug, and pillows donated via Donors Choose. The padded bench and cubes provide additional seating and give me extra storage. This area is a great incentive for good behavior and it’s a great place to hold parent teacher conferences. My creative writing students love to cozy up and write. I am enamored with this seating area and love that it makes my room feel more “homey”.
My high school students are always curious about my diplomas. I graduated from Forest Park High School in Crystal Falls, Michigan and attended Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin for my undergraduate degree. I also have two masters degrees from Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Michigan.
My desk and chair were funded via Donors Choose last year. I also had lamps and LED bulbs funded a few years ago – to prevent glare from our florescent lights. My students noticed a huge difference in how the light impacts headaches etc. It provides a much more calm and soothing environment.
speakers, hand sanitizer, positive message signs, Kleenex – Yes, you guessed it – Donors Choose.
When my step kids were in elementary school I loved to visit their school building. I was always in awe (and quite envious) of the cute decorated rooms. I thought to myself, “High school classrooms can be charming and creative too!” It became one of my goals to make it happen. Thank you Donors Choose and all the generous funders.
It was my dream to be able to switch from desks to tables for my students, and my district could not afford to provide them. Therefore, it was truly life changing to have all these tables and chairs funded via Donors Choose. I love my students to be able to collaborate and conduct writing workshops, it provides more room for me to circulate the room and make sure that they are on task. The standing desks allow students to stand if they prefer to work that way and they allow me to utilize the outer walls that would otherwise be wasted space. I can easily have a class of 30+ students and not have the room be overly congested. For smaller classes I can have the students spread out.
While I like using the lamps, sometimes we need the classroom to be brighter (especially when I have to proctor standardized tests) so I do have some filters on the light fixtures. I had a project funded via Donors Choose to filter the remainder of my florescent lights. That will be my project in the next few weeks. It makes a HUGE difference in the quality of the light in the room.
I also have added a few personal touches to the room. We are located in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and my family loves traveling to Alaska. So one of my themes this year will be adventure and encouraging my students to dream big. We will be creating bulletin boards with pieces of writing and artwork around this theme. I had drawing paper, a copious amount of markers, and art materials funded via Donors Choose.
This was my classroom last year. I tried to make the best of having to add desks and be mindful of maintaining social distance (the desks appear close in this photo, but they were rather spaced out). I had both face-to-face and online students and was able to teach f2f most of the year (we did get shut-down for several weeks after Thanksgiving due to an increase in Covid cases in our area).

Thank you for visiting my classroom. I hope I have inspired you to check-in to Donors Choose and post a project. It’s a remarkable organization that has transformed my classroom environment and my teaching practice in so many ways – physically, emotionally, and academically. It impacts morale in ways that cannot be put into words. As a teacher, it feels empowering to know that others support my students, believe in our schools, and have faith in my classroom practice. I have been able to provide my students with resources and projects that would not have been possible without Donors Choose.

I am grateful to the kindness that has been bestowed on myself and my students from CEO founder Charles Best and his incredible team. I am grateful for the companies that provide matching grants and to family, friends, and even complete strangers that have provided us with so many resources. When I retire I plan to find a source of part time employment and all my earnings will go to fund Donors Choose teacher projects to pay it forward.

I love my students. How fortunate I am to be entrusted with their education. I’m thankful to be able to share a sacred place with them – a classroom where we can find ourselves and learn about our place in humanity. ❤

Here is my Donors Choose page if you want to check out the 52 projects that I have had funded over the years.