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.
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.
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, 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, 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.”