MT MORRIS TWP, MI – When Jessica Reed walked into her classroom, her eyes filled with tears.
The room has been repainted, turning white from its old dark blue. Desks were 6 feet apart, and hand sanitizer stations were located at each corner. Large print on one wall read: “This is our happy place.”
Northridge Academy plans to begin online courses and review possible in-person instruction in October. However, Reed will continue to teach virtually in his new and improved classroom.
Reed said she was excited to show her Northridge Academy Kindergarten students her new vacation-style bedroom.
“You know it’s going to be life changing for them,” Reed said.
Before classrooms were closed in Michigan due to COVID-19, Reed had a makeover in the classroom with Schoolgirl Style, a brand of classroom decorations started by a longtime educator from Genesee County , Melanie Ralbusky.
It was disappointing to put the project on hold, but once the restrictions were lifted, Ralbusky said she was able to proceed with the classroom renovation with COVID safety measures in mind. -19. A team of five was able to work all week to complete the room for a Friday July 31 reveal.
As a kindergarten teacher, Reed said she is becoming a “fun teacher.”
“When you’re a kindergarten teacher, every child comes back to your room,” Reed said.
This year, Reed faces new challenges. She will not have a normal family orientation in kindergarten. But students will see the classroom in its background when they go online.
The classroom was redesigned by a teacher Reed knew growing up.
Ralbusky grew up in the Flint area, attended the University of Michigan-Flint, and taught in Genesee County districts for most of his career. She said that designing a classroom is a passion because the atmosphere of a classroom enhances the learning experience for both teacher and students. Eventually, she created her own brand, Schoolgirl Style, to support this passion and share it with other educators.
“I did classroom renovations for deserving teachers across the country and thought it was time to come home and do something special for my hometown,” said Ralbusky.
Ralbusky knew Reed as she pursued her teaching career.
She taught Reed’s sister, Chloe, in kindergarten when Reed was in high school. After teaching Chloe for two years, Ralbusky said she got to know Reed’s family well.
When Reed decided to become a teacher, Ralbusky said she wasn’t surprised.
“I knew she would one day make a phenomenal teacher because she loved children and cared so much about children, regardless of their background or limitations,” said Ralbusky. “She was a lawyer.”
Knowing Reed and watching her grow up made this classy makeover special, said Ralbusky.
“His positivity about all kids and how all kids can learn – I’ve always been his biggest fan,” Ralbusky said of Reed. “I’m going to cry talking about her.”
COVID-19 made the classroom design difficult, but Ralbusky said she was able to adapt and be creative.
Usually, said Ralbusky, she likes having a carpet in a room and plenty of spaces for community supplies, but with the COVID-19 restrictions, she had removed all soft surfaces. A collection of pillows was on display in the room on Friday for the photoshoot, but she said they plan to remove them when the students return. She also adjusted the storage spaces so that students each have their own space for supplies, eliminating shared items.
“I think this room is just very inspiring,” said Ralbusky. “I think whatever situation a teacher finds himself in, whatever state they are in or what their guidelines are, the room renovation reminds them that the classroom is still there and that we still have students and we can still celebrate learning. “
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