Last Fall we joined the #clearthelist movement and gave away $2500 to one lucky teacher to transform their classroom, however they’d like.
Tanna Houston, an 8th-grade ELA teacher at River Heights Intermediate School in Corona-Norco Unified School District, was the lucky winner of the grand prize! Congratulations to you, Ms. Houston!
Want to see what she did with her classroom? We sure do! We sat down with Tanna to ask her about her experience and to share her classroom transformation.
How did you hear about the classroom makeover?
If I remember correctly, I saw a post on Instagram. I follow a few teachers on Instagram so one of them might have reshared it. I entered the contest because it wasn’t this extensive process. Sometimes you have to fill out a ton of information, but this seemed pretty simple. I hadn't heard of Lumio before so that piqued my interest.
How did your students react when they heard that you won the prize money?
They were all shocked, happy and excited but mainly skeptical. They said “Ms. Houston, it's a scam. It's a scam!” [editor's note: it wasn’t!!]
What were some of the items that your students wanted you to get for the classroom?
I had some bouncy bands previously because our counselor gave us a few, and the kids just loved them. They used to fight over the desks that had them, or even switch the desks around so that they would get the bouncy band. But I was actually able to get bouncy bands for every single desk in our classroom and they couldn’t be more excited. They did want to see more bouncy bands for their desks.
Some of the requests are a little ridiculous. They would say “hey Ms. Houston, we need portable chargers.” The only place they have to charge their devices is in the back of the room, which can be so inconvenient when you have a full class. One kid asked for a snack machine in the classroom so he could have unlimited snacks and I said “um, that’s a big ask, you should ask for simple things like ‘can we have pencils all the time.’” Oh, they wanted their own comfortable new chairs.
Tell us about some of the items you purchased.
I was trying to get functional items that I typically would never be able to purchase.
This seems silly, but I am all about a functional classroom, especially with middle schoolers. [editor's note: not silly at ALL!] When they need to go to the restroom, they have to sign out, then sign back in. Previously, they would want to pull out their phones to check the time or interrupt class to ask me for the time. So one thing I purchased was a digital clock that shows the time and date for students to use when they have to sign out for the restroom. Now they don't have to ask me the date or the time and interrupt class time.
One thing I’m really excited about is our Air Purifier. We’re in California and my classroom gets muggy and gross in the hot months. We can sometimes have 42 kids in our classroom; when they come in from PE or if it's 100 degrees or over outside, they would hate coming back into the class hot. So the air purifier has been really great to keep the space fresh and clean. And while I was shopping, I also figured I might as well purchase the filters for the air purifier. I know that throughout the year, I’ll have to change the filters and those are not necessarily cheap. So, I was trying to be proactive about what we’d use in the classroom.
I wanted to make sure we had more opportunities for collaborative work. They do a lot on their computers as it is but creating spaces that they can stand up, move around and work in groups allows for better creativity and critical thinking. I set up three separate group stations, equipped with Whiteboards and supplies, so student feel empowered to work collaboratively.
For my own teacher space, I got one new monitor for my desk and we’ll be installing the second monitor in just a few days. This is something I was more excited about; the kids were not. They noticed that I had a new chair; a sub broke my chair one time - I came back to class and my chair was broken! So, I was happy to get a brand-new teacher chair. I also got a standing desk converter, the one that you pull up so you can stand. One thing I used to hate is that I had to sit to work at my computer. When I use the document camera, I want to be able to see my students, you know? Now I can pull up my desk, stand and see my students.
But I put most of my budget into bouncy bands for the student’s desks. Like I said, I had some bouncy bands before the classroom makeover and my students just loved them. But I was actually able to get bouncy bands for every single desk in our classroom and they couldn’t be more excited!
Oh, I also caved and got a cricket because I figured that was something that the other teachers in my school can use too. Signs, prizes, flashcards, signs, you name it.
How was the makeover process?
I was so happy that I could take my time to finish the makeover. I actually came in during our winter break and put up a few final touches!
Is there a feeling that's different in your classroom?
I feel like it's cozier and more inviting. I would also have to say it feels more functional. Even simple things like somebody not interrupting. I know that seems so simple, but it makes a big difference.
Any final words?
Thank you so much Lumio team. This has been a game-changer to my classroom.