Prepping for day one

Teachers spend hours getting classrooms set for learning

Godfrey Elementary teacher Alex Kuiper prepares his classroom for the first day of school on August 19. Kuiper and his colleagues spent many days over the summer prepping for their students and the new school year

Seating options including exercise balls and cushy chairs, calming decor and tech-ready environments were classroom amenities teachers had in mind long before students arrived for the first day of school Aug. 19.

As they do every August, the educators spent many hours and days preparing their classrooms to create the perfect learning environment. The following four Godfrey-Lee teachers shared how they prepped for opening day and beyond.

From his classroom library and bulletin boards to the seating arrangement and many other details, Godfrey Elementary teacher Alex Kuiper wants his classroom to be a home away from home for his students; one that feels safe and inviting

Alex Kuiper, third-grade, Godfrey Elementary:

Kuiper, in his fifth-year teaching, said he wanted to make sure the classroom was inviting to his new students.

“I’m making sure when they come in that they feel like it’s a home away from home, and that they feel safe in the classroom,” Kuiper said. “I want my room to be conducive to learning … an environment that is inviting. It needs to be a place where they feel comfortable and cared about.

“I also want to make sure the kids have everything they need in order to have a successful school year; notebooks, folders, crayons, pencils.  We’ve had some great community partners who have been able to donate school supplies for us, but that doesn’t mean I don’t spend my own money. I’ve spent at least a thousand dollars on my class library to make sure there’s a good selection for reading. The Guido A. and Elizabeth H. Binda Foundation has generously donated money to help us get more books, and with other grants we’ve been able to get more classroom library books so I don’t feel as pressured.”

After years of helping his mom, Mary Kuiper, set up her classroom as a youngster, his mother now returns the favor.

“I grew up in a family of teachers,” Alex  Kuiper said.

There’s a good reason Early Childhood Center teacher Kimberly Radcliff’s classroom looks disheveled a few days before opening day. She was hired one day before open house and is rushing to get things ready with her mom Kathy Sporer

Kimberly Radcliff, early childhood special education (ages 2-1/2 to 5 years old), Early Childhood Center:

After getting hired just a day before open house last week, Radcliff worked overtime to get her room ready for the first day of school.

“It was kind of a rush this year,” laughed Radcliff, as she spoke about her recent hiring. “Right now I’m just organizing and putting toys away and I’ll figure out room space and classroom setup.

“I’m going to take down the bright bulletin boards. A lot of early elementary/special ed kiddos have sensory issues, so I want to do something that’s a calmer, lighter color for them. Classroom environment is huge. They need to feel safe and excited about the environment.”

Similar to Kuiper, Radcliff also had help from her mother, Kathy Sporer.

“I’m looking forward to the impact I can have on the students, not just in the classroom, but with their families. Some of it is helping parents parent as well as teaching kids.”

Eryn Watson’s classroom is well under way
Early Childhood first-grade teacher Eryn Watson gets her class ready for the new school year

Eryn Watson, first grade, Early Childhood Center:

Entering her sixth year teaching at Godfrey-Lee, Watson is moving up with her kindergartners to first grade.

“I’m lucky because I was in kindergarten last year and I have the same group of students this year,” said Watson, who first thought of being a teacher in elementary school. “I’m setting up my classroom with them in mind. I want to make it feel cozy, fun and collaborative.

“This summer, I came here every Friday for a full day to prepare, and I spent three days last week and all of this week here.”

Like other teachers, she is using other option than just desk for her students to sit in.

“I am doing a lot of flexible seating this year,” said Watson. “We’re going to be using technology quite a bit, so I want it to be comfortable.”

Alicia Provencal, second-grade teacher at the Early Childhood Center, said she wants her classroom to be clean, organized and simple. She also likes the flexible seating concept
Early Childhood Center second-grade teacher Alicia Provencal prepares for a new classroom of students

Alicia Provencal, second grade, Early Childhood Center:

Provencal tries to keep her classroom clean, organized and simple.

“I don’t like a lot of stuff on the walls. I leave my bulletin boards empty so I can add things during the year that they’re proud of and put certain things on display.”

And she’s all in with flexible seating.

“It helps students that are uncomfortable in chairs.”

Cris Greer
For more than three decades, Cris Greer has been a wordsmith, working in the fields of journalism, advertising and marketing. Much of the past decade, he helped grow the MLive Statewide High School Sports desk as a supervisor, editor and reporter, which included eight newspapers in Michigan and mlive.com. Cris also was a freelancer for The Grand Rapids Press, The Advance and On the Town magazine for many years. A good portion of his early career was spent building and managing the copywriting team in the advertising department at Meijer, Inc., where he oversaw copywriting for print ads, mailers, brochures, signage, several dozen in-house magazines per year and much more. Read Cris's full bio

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