For both students and teachers, school is like a second home. We spend nine months a year in classrooms for at least seven hours per day. Luckily, some teachers took on the responsibility of spicing up their classrooms to help students feel welcomed, comfortable, and inspired. Here are seven teachers who have gone above and beyond to make their space feel special and unique.
Ms. Bathauer: C-16
Danette Bathauer teaches Drama and Stagecraft in C-16. She personalizes her classroom with warm lights, vintage books, and rows of Shakespeare texts. What makes her room distinctive is the rehearsal stage, which covers almost half of the room. Her inspirations for her unique decorations were the “delights from our last show, The Old Man and the Old Moon.” The play experimented with lighting, which ultimately inspired the variety of colorful disco lights and twinkling fairy lights that add to the relaxed and peaceful aura of the room.
One specific, heartfelt item catches the attention of any art historian or musical fanatic on campus: a framed print of A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat. Bathauer surrounds herself with what she loves most, and the painting serves as a constant reminder of the musical, Sunday in the Park with George written by James Lapine and composed by Stephen Sondheim, The show is centered around two characters who contemplate the line between art and commerce. She said that the show’s message is that “everything in life is art—you create your existence and your own world. In the musical, the painting comes to life, and he justified the colors and the positions of the people. It just has always spoken to me.”
Ms. Otsuka: C-11
Lisa Otsuka is the AP Literature and Psychology teacher. Inspired by the arts, her room in C-11 is decorated with instruments, student art, and lots of books! A piano by the entrance and a guitar invites students to showcase their musical talent. “I want people to feel comfortable being in the room and to develop a sense of community,” said Otsuka. The entire entrance is also covered in photographs from previous classes, showcasing students’ AP Literature projects, such as dressing up in costumes to reproduce a scene from Shakespeare’s King Lear. Above her desk hang photos and letters from previous students, making the wall a sentimental collage of memories. She said, “for me, what really sparks joy in the room is when students are in it.”
Ms. Frivold: I-2
This next classroom is excitement and creativity all wrapped up in one. Sarah Frivold, known by her students as “Friv,” teaches Photography I, II, and AP. Her classroom, I-2, features both educational resources and projects from her students. Frivold said, “I like to have one wall that is an information wall that can help students, and the other is to inspire students to see what other peers have done, what they can do, and what they are going to do.” Her desk is a combination of inspirational posters and affirmations. Although the vibrance and color may be a shock at first, every item in her room serves a purpose. “I am naturally a maximalist,” explained Frivold. Her most-used decorative item in her classroom is a “pink flamingo charging cord that a student gave me.” She describes it as perfect in both “form and function,” adding creativity and a fun atmosphere into the classroom.
Ms. Olson: B-3
Anne Olson teaches Gender Studies and AP US History. Her classroom in B-3 features posters, lights, chalk boards, pillows, and pride flags. She said, “I wanted to make my classroom warm, comforting and inviting—a place where students with a variety of backgrounds and identities can see themselves reflected in the space.” Couches and plush pillows help make students feel comfortable in her classroom. An upside-down watercolor map in the left corner serves as a great conversational piece. “It causes students to really think a lot. For example, in Australia, there are map projections that look like this because that’s how Australians see the world from where they’re positioned,” Olson said. Another great piece in her room is a line of pride flags on the back wall. She said, “I never had a teacher growing up that was openly out of the closet, so the fact that I can be that for some of my students is really special. If they are a part of the LGBTQ community, they can hopefully see their flag being represented, and if they are not, they can still learn that there are so many aspects to it.”
Ms. Byrne: G-10
Mallory Byrne teaches Life Skills, Ethnic Studies, and US History. Her classroom, G-10, has a warm and friendly feel as soon as students step through the door. “My classroom is my sanctuary away from home,” she said. “I want students to feel welcomed and safe in my room, so my posters are social justice-oriented because equity is very important to me. The lights are also aesthetically pleasing to my soul.” Byrne takes special efforts to cover her classroom in pastel string lights, bringing childlike playfulness into the classroom atmosphere. Near the front door, Byrne keeps a collection of Squishmallows for students to hold when they are feeling stressed or overwhelmed. Students can also expect a couch—coming soon—to add to the comfort.
Ms. Bryan: G-18
Decorations come in all shapes and sizes. For calculus teacher Kristen Bryan, her preferred form is memes. At first glance, her classroom in G-18 appears ordinary, but a wall of memes sets her apart from other teachers. The wall features a collage of math memes that helps build a community by bonding over the challenges and triumphs of calculus. The class’s current favorite is a relatable Drake meme that compares “Using shells” to “Using a 4-part disk integral and getting the problem wrong because you can’t do arithmetic.” In previous years, a Die Hard poster stood out, with the message “DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE!” However, this particular poster is not currently on display.
Mr. Vanderway: S-10
AP Physics teacher Joseph Vanderway takes a different approach to classroom decor. His classroom in S-10 is physics-themed, including demonstration items that illustrate each unit’s topic. The classroom space is fun, innovative, and energetic. His students love promoting his classroom for its uniqueness and interactive qualities. In the very front of the classroom, a toy plane hangs from the ceiling along with a miniature baby doll—a gift from a previous student. Other items in his room include a collection of portable whiteboards, magnetic monkeys, robots, ladders, and a static electricity ball. Classrooms are meant to bring students together and inspire them to seek knowledge. There are many teachers at M-A with creative classroom decorations, but these seven examples deserve appreciation for their efforts to make their environment comfortable and inclusive. From aesthetics to ingenuity, these teachers have demonstrated that teaching consists of so much more than lectures and tests. They are the role models that we look up to, and their efforts to make our academic experience special will continue to impact students for years to come.