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Grant helps redesign Decatur classrooms

Haley Garrison, Ellie Scott, and Becca Massey show off their new comfortable chairs.

Haley Garrison, Ellie Scott, and Becca Massey show off their new comfortable chairs.

Imagine being offered a chance to redesign your classroom in a way that could truly meet the needs of your diverse students. Decatur Public School (DPS) teachers associated with the Decatur Teacher Education Pipeline had just that chance.

The “Classroom Redesign” grant amounted to $50,000 and allowed Illinois State University partner teachers in Decatur to create model classroom spaces. Some teachers were able to outfit their entire classrooms with new furniture, while others selected various complimentary flexible seating options. All teachers who participated have worked closely with Illinois State preservice teachers and will use the new furniture to exemplify best practices for integrating flexible learning spaces into teaching and learning.

Illinois State alumna Abbey Jordan ’14 fell in love with Decatur schools through her Macon-Piatt field base placement. Jordan has been teaching in DPS elementary social-emotional learning classrooms for five years.

“I have seen a great improvement in focus while with me during instruction because the chairs are designed to allow them to move, but move within certain boundaries,” Jordan said. “I don’t have chairs tipping or moving around anymore. On top of all that, my room just looks fresh. It looks like it was designed to be used and lived in by K–3 students, and the kids definitely have a sense of pride with it. I love it so much!”

In Abbey Jordan's classroom, the “Oodle” chairs from Smith Systems have a rocker base and stack to different heights.

In Abbey Jordan’s classroom, the “Oodle” chairs from Smith Systems have a rocker base and stack to different heights.

Jamie Reed has hosted several field base students and Illinois State student teachers in her special education classroom at Hope Academy. She does not have a lot of transition time between classes, and because of that, she opted for a “Cascade Mega-Tower.” “It makes me declutter and stay organized,” Reed said. “The compartments are organized by work groups.” She has allowed the arrangement of the furniture to be student-driven. “Students move things as they need. They are always making suggestions for where furniture should go.”

High school special education teachers Becca Massey, Haley Garrison, and Ellie Scott chose bean bag chairs for their life skills students in addition to Oodle chairs. “During reading the students enjoy the class so much more because they get to relax and be comfortable. The wobble chairs allow students to move freely within their space without distracting others. We love them!” Both Garrison and Scott are recent graduates of Illinois State and Massey has hosted field base and student teachers.

Jamie Reed has gotten rid of her teacher desk in favor of the Cascade Mega-Tower.

Jamie Reed has gotten rid of her teacher desk in favor of the Cascade Mega-Tower.

Another high school life skills teacher, Shannen Ray, ordered bean bag chairs, butterfly chairs, rocking chairs, and stackable chairs. Her students helped assemble the new furniture. “We love the flexible seating and want to send a huge thank you!” Ray is currently hosting Illinois State field base student Jeanelle Dohrman.

Twelve DPS teachers were able to receive new furniture through the grant. Illinois State preservice teachers on clinical visits, field base placements, and student teaching assignments will benefit from working with students in a student-centered environment.

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