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Southwest Teachers Decorate Classrooms For Design Challenge


A pleasant surprise was in store for Southwest Elementary School teachers during a recent Belton ISD professional development session.

“There have been tears of joy and excitement. It’s like Christmas morning,” Southwest Elementary Principal Stacy Cox said about the shocking moment when teachers realized they each would be receiving a $400 check from a generous Belton Educational Enrichment Foundation donor for their classrooms.

“I asked myself, ‘what can I meaningfully do with an extra $400?’” replied fifth-grade math and science teacher Matt Semper. “It was a big impetus to do something different in the classroom.”

The funds were part of a challenge where teachers were tasked with designing what they believed could be a perfect instructional room. For Semper, he focused on creating a learning center decked out with comfy pillows, a fuzzy rug, and all under a tent.

tent chair

“Having all of the math manipulatives available under the tent was so important so that the students could just really have a defined space that they can go to and know that’s a math center,” he said.

Semper’s fellow fifth-grade math and science teacher, Rodney Ward, also designed a unique area which features “a neat two-person conversation chair that gives them another way to talk and share with each other.”

Fourth-grade teacher Robyn Jackson said the design challenge also offered teachers, particularly her fourth-grade team of CJ Payne, Melanie Craig, and Gloria Rafael-Tovar, the opportunity to bond.

“We all four are blessed to be new at Southwest together,” Jackson said. “A great team-building activity was going shopping together as a team and learning about each other.”

fourth grade

The group decided to pool their money together and buy supplies and décor that could be used by their team which included a number of fun activities for kids to do while walking the path between portables and the main building.

“We also wanted to focus on individual students’ needs,” Rafael-Tovar said. “So, we focused on making sure they were ready to go to school, as in providing a snack if they needed something to eat so they’ll be able to concentrate more on their school work.”

The shopping, designing, and decorating process has been a tremendous back to school experience, says Cox.

“It’s a real morale booster because they’re very proud of their rooms,” Cox said. “They’re very cognizant and aware that they wanted to make good purchases because they wanted to be good stewards of the gifts.”

And teachers are equally as excited for new students to experience these learning environments.

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Donations from generous community members help the Belton Educational Enrichment Foundation provide funds for events like the Southwest Design Challenge. BEEF’s annual Red Carpet Event is October 8, 2019 from 5:30–8:30 p.m. and will include a casino night this year. Join BEEF and Belton ISD for a fun evening that includes dinner, silent auction, and games as you chip in for the kids.

Joshua Wucher
August 22, 2019