My Classroom

Welcome to My Classroom!

Year #2: 2015-2016 (4th & 5th grade)

Well, here we are over eight weeks into school, and I have yet to do my classroom reveal post. As I reflect about the craziness that has occurred during these past two months, I realize that it is okay. My classroom is finally starting to come together, and there are less empty spaces on the walls. This was a major feat that has been quite the challenge this school year. While I received the keys to my classroom relatively early in the summer, most of my furniture and essential pieces to my classroom did not arrive until right before (or after) school started. It made organizing and decorating that much more of a challenge.

If you have been following my teaching journey, you would know that I switched schools/districts and grade levels this school year. After a long debate, I decided to take a teaching position closer to home. This decision is something that was not taken lightly, but I am elated that I did decide to make the switch. While this process could be a bit nerve-wracking, I returned to the school that I student taught at, and it has felt more like coming back home than a new school. One of my mentor teachers is on campus (the other retired) and so many familiar faces are in the classrooms surrounding mine. It really has been a wonderful homecoming. Best yet? The students I am working with are those that I worked with as a student teacher and/or long-term substitute. This move was really about coming full circle. It is extraordinary.

Back to my classroom process. I received my classroom keys on June 29th. This is extremely early, which made me extremely excited to get planning; however, just as I received my keys, I quickly realized that much of the furniture and major components were not in my classroom. While I could start coming up with lists about basic plans, much of the actual creating could not be finalized until furniture, technology, and classroom numbers were set.

Despite my disaster of a bun and lack of makeup, I had to take an obligatory selfie upon receiving my keys. I was excited to enter my room (which was the former library) and see the blank canvas I was working with. Ironically, I was working in room 17 yet again which seems to be my lucky number--my first classroom, my wedding anniversary, and now this classroom.

My nearly empty, blank slate. Despite the bare walls, I knew the classroom had a lot of potential. When I walked into my new room, I was overwhelmed. For the second straight year, I was starting with essentially nothing. No goodies to dig through or sort. Just bare walls, no furniture, and lots of possibilities. It is safe to say that I started with nothing and have made my classroom my own.
Lots of space. As you can see, there was one bookshelf, one technology table, the student desks, two trash cans, and the cabinets in my room. While there were promises about technology, a smart board, and other pieces of furniture, there was nothing placed in my room for the entire month of July. The furniture I brought into the room was mine, and many of the details and things on the walls could not be placed until whiteboards and smart board were mounted on the walls. The organizer in me was panicking, but now that my room is nearly together, it was all worth it.

As I started to work on my classroom, I was fortunate to have such a supportive family. Not only did my dad help me set up my first classroom (including supplying me with this desk), he helped me relocate it to my new classroom. Aren't dedicated family members a blessing? I know that I wouldn't have gotten my room set up in time if not for family support!

After getting my desk in my room, it finally started to feel like my classroom.

Now, if you look closely on the walls, you can see a whole bunch of holes. Do you see them? These holes were something that drove me crazy. If you are anything like me, I like to have my room look put together, clean, and welcoming. These holes were NOT part of this image. My classroom was the former library. Only days before I received my keys, there were bookshelves mounted everywhere--hence the holes. I knew that my furniture placement needed to be creative, or maybe I would have to find creative artwork.

On the counter, there are several boxes. This, my friends, is something that made me squeal out loud (see the next picture).

Those boxes were my new Promethean board! This beauty was fresh-out-of-the-box and all mine. Best yet, it got mounted on the wall fairly quickly. 
Following all the excitement of my new Promethean Board, I was inspired to get work done in my classroom. I was thankful that I had bulletin board surface on a lot of walls. 
Can you sense the pure exhaustion on my face? If you have never put fabric on bulletin boards by yourself, it is a lot of work. I applaud all you teachers that change the backgrounds of your bulletin boards. I really do not know how you do it. Really, I want to know your secrets. These boards will stay up here all year. I cannot begin to even think about changing them. My arms and back just ache thinking about that process again. 
All that work and my room still looked empty. Do you notice all the empty wall space and the lack of furniture? These will not arrive until right before and during the first month of school. Has anyone else had that happen? I was in full teacher panic. This was AUGUST and my room still looked like a blank slate. 

My amazing husband hard at work again!

This is my husband. I would like to have a quick moment of praise for those wonderful teacher husbands (and wives) out there. Really, they are the best!!! I do not know how they put up with all the teacher craziness, but I can personally say that my husband is amazing. Not only does he not mind coming into my room in the summer, late at night, on the weekends, or right before the bell rings because I forgot something, but he jumps in and helps. He has a great attitude, helps me plan, and is just a rockstar. What would we do without those people that help support us?

Not only did this wonderful man help me nearly every day I was in my room, but the night before Back to School Night he was in my room (until later than I'd like to admit). He was helping me put the finishing touches up on my fall (at least as best as we could at that point). If you have someone that influential to your teaching success, please let them know. I know I don't say it enough, but thank you, Christopher. You are my support, and I am so very thankful.
(Not to forget my parents--they are AMAZING and a huge reason why I be successful and happy in this field! Thanks Mom and Dad!!!!)

Back to School Night

This is what my room looked like right before my first official event at my new school. Do you notice what is missing? Yep--I had no white boards. They were on order, and I was still not certain their dimensions. This resulted in an empty wall. This was really my nightmare. I wanted my room to be finished, yet an entire wall was virtually untouched. I kept looking at all those amazing classroom reveals, and honestly there were tears of panic. Here I was minutes before parents flooding my room for the first time and I really could not finish this wall. There was this blank wall at the front of my room. 
10 minutes until the start of Back to School Night. I push-pinned a few posters, my rules, and crossed my fingers that no one would notice my empty wall. I comically placed a piece of paper with a "whiteboards downloading" sign. I got quite a few chuckles with that one.
The great news is that my parents commented about the effort I put into making my room a welcoming space. There was not much time to focus on my blank wall. I was also happy to make use of my pen holder that I made with my students last year.

The non-empty walls.
I used Google Forms to collect more parent information during my presentation. I am thinking that I might use Kahoot for an interactive component next year! 

I adore this poem that I picked up here. It matches my space theme that I like to play up A LOT due to my last name (DeMARS).

My teacher desk. It seems huge, but I rarely sit here alone during the day. Students use this space for conferencing, it is an area for materials storage (I do not have much storage), and our student-run classroom store is housed here every day. 
One of my favorite features of my room are the lovely banners made by dear friend, Sarah, from Tales of Teaching with Tech. She made this special banner for me that matches the lovely ones you can see throughout my room here. They come in many colors, are bright, and easy to read. Seriously, go pick them up!

This year I tried to add a few personal touches that make me smile. Our classrooms are like our second home, right? I added the photos from the 2015 Vegas Meet UP with my favorite ladies. These pictures always bring a smile to my face. I love that we were able to spend so much time together. The best part is that we are working to really tackle this teaching adventure together, and this picture works as an anchor to remind me of that. Teachers need to stick together. 

More details. They really do make all the difference!

Seriously, what teacher cannot use a little more help. Nearly a month into school I still had not stamped and organized my classroom library. Two of my wonderful students stayed after school for many hours. They organized, labeled, and entered all our books into our digital library. Priceless, right?!

After hours of work, several dum-dums paid out, and lots of laughs, the library was finally ready for my students.

The Final Major Puzzle Piece 
(though my husband would disagree that this was the last...)
I literally started jumping up and down when I realized that my whiteboards finally arrived. September 24th, a day I will continue to celebrate. The amazing maintenance staff came in and quickly started mounting the boards. This made my teacher heart sing. As they quickly worked to get the boards mounted while students poured in (the day was just starting), my students started cheering. I think they were almost as excited as I was.
While my students got started on their bell work, I instantly started working on setting up our boards. Things were stapled around the board, washi tape placed, our schedule written down. Honestly, it was up in less than 10 minutes. I cannot believe how quickly it went up. Is there a project you complete that just flew by because you were so excited? My students were impressed, and I was elated to have this large piece of my room finally completed.
This is closer to what my room looks now. We use the front bulletin boards to celebrate our art, student progress, and other feature events/activities at school.
Another look at our classroom door & more fabulous banners by Sarah!
We even decorate and focus on seasonal changes.
Our classroom information station.
Our classroom Twitter wall. We tweeted about our experience with hands-on coding with Dot & Dash (read about that here)
I use brochures and pamphlets to help students synthesize learning throughout the year. They love to display their learning in our brochure holders.

Our more organized classroom library. We have been collecting more books through our Scholastic points. Do you have suggestions on how to gain more points every month? I'm all ears!

This would be our "final large project" according to my husband. We have a classroom pet. His name is Prism, and he is a veiled chameleon. 
My favorite wall in the classroom, our iPad cart, and our "Did you Know?" board. 

Our focus and goal boards.

Our interactive math bulletin board. If you have not checked out Jameson's (Lessons with Coffee) interactive math boards, go check them out now. I have purchased ALL of them. I adore them. My kids love them. It is worth it. They gravitate this boggle wall during 'free time' and they are quick to remind me if they need more forms. I started changing our board and they begged for another week with math boggle, and of course they obliged.

Well, thank you for touring my classroom. I am thrilled that it looks more complete and is closer to the image that I had in my head so many months ago. As the school year continues, I know that it will continue to evolve and change, but for now it definitely feels like home. How do you make your classroom feel like home? What is your favorite element of your classroom?

Year #1: 2014-2015 (6th grade Math & Science)
Keys to my first classroom (6/20/2014)
I received my very first set of classroom keys on June 20th. This photo journal outlines the whirlwind that was the first steps to my teaching career. I started interviewing for teaching positions in the spring of 2014. I was at the end of my student teaching assignment, and following several interviews, I was offered a handful of positions. While I had many viable offers, I was holding out for a position listings in my home county. In late April, I got a call that would later be something that would be a pivotal point in my life. I received an interview at a school in my home county and about 40 minutes away from my home. On May 14th, I interviewed for an elementary teacher position at Tenaya Elementary. As I was heading home that day I received a phone call and discovered that I had been offered a teaching position in 6th grade. While I had never really imagined that I would be teaching middle school, I am beyond blessed to be working such a great school with a very energetic and kind group of students.

View of my classroom when I received my keys. There was no teacher desk, a lot of broken file cabinets, and student desks that were extremely small for my 6th-grade kiddos. See that TV in the corner? That TV nearly killed me a few weeks later.

I was fortunate to be able to attend several in-service dates prior to the start of the 2014-15 school year. After asking my administrators, I was given a set of keys to my room and was allowed to visit my room for the first time. When I entered my room there was not much to look at. The furniture, that was in my room was very worn, there were many broken file cabinets and the student desks were much too short for middle school students. It was then that I realized that in order to make this room feel welcoming and warm, that I would need to spend much of the summer collecting furniture and decorations that could fill the room.

During the first month, I spent time organizing the items (very little) that were left by the previous teacher. I started making a list of furniture and items that I would need to find. Since there was very little that was left, it made it easy to sort. Thankfully, my parents had a desk that would become my very first teacher desk, and I was able to purchase a few key pieces at a reasonable price.

After some quick organization, I started playing with the desks that were in the room. If you notice, there is an empty TV stand directly above my desk. When I got keys to my classroom, I inherited a room that was filthy. There was a pretty thick layer of grime and dust on pretty much everything. I was fortunate enough to have support from my parents and husband, and during the summer, they frequently came to my room with me to help clean. While all four of us were in my room, I decided to start cleaning the TV (one of those older CRT heavy ones). As I started dusting, I realized that the TV was not properly mounted correctly. It started tipping off the stand. Thankfully this happened while my husband and father were with me. They quickly jumped in and took it off the stand. Needless to say, when the janitor offered to put the TV back up on the stand, I said, "NO!" I couldn't even imagine what would have happened if I was alone when I was doing that!

These fabric swatches served as my inspiration for my classroom color scheme. Along with the already painted wall in my classroom, I finally decided to stick to a blue and lime green theme for my room. Luckily these are some of my favorite colors. The swatches stayed in my purse all summer and went with me everywhere I went. It was great when I was picking up pieces for my room and needed to make sure that they would work with the colors already in my room.

Since my school is about 40 minutes (one way) from my home I spend a lot of time in the car. After talking with my husband, we decided that I needed a car that was good on narrow, winding roads and fun to drive. We decided that a used Miata would be an acceptable commute car. We found this beauty with super low mileage and in FANTASTIC condition. It has been a great addition and has made the hour and 20 minutes I spend in the car manageable. 
While I have another car that would be more practical to haul items to my classroom, I love driving my Miata so much that I had many trips with a full passenger seat (and trunk). Surprisingly you can fit a lot in these tiny cars. 

The beginnings of my first teacher desk. I  love that many of the items are gifts or items that were my great-grandmother's. 

I got to participate in the long lines and great school supply sales from a teacher's perspective. While I loved shopping for my classroom, the receipt for these supplies was super long and quite expensive. Since most of my students cannot afford school supplies, teachers end up footing the bill for most of the supplies.

One of the few functioning pieces of furniture in my classroom, when I started, was this black file cabinet. Unfortunately, it was covered in faded, tacky stickers. My lovely mother spent over an hour scraping these stickers off of this cabinet. I have the best mother EVER. 
After the original TV fiasco, I was certain that I would never let that TV be mounted over my head again. Without the TV, the stand was still very much in the way and quite a safety hazard. My lovely husband took the time to get it out of my way. 

My desk has been quite the work in progress. Luckily I quite a lot of time to make it a functional workspace. The unpainted spot, where the TV stand was mounted, drove me nuts for about a month, but it finally got fixed.

My very own nameplate on the door. The left over glue from the previous nameplate bugs me a little, but I love being able to see my name on my very first classroom. I showed up to my room one day and it was there. It was such a nice surprise.

I have a breaker panel in my room. At first I didn't know what to do with it, but after tracking down some cute magnetic borders and math, technology and science poetry words, my magnetic word wall was born! My kids love it and they are always excited when they get the opportunity to "play" and make sentences or poems. The great news that it doesn't look so terrible and still is easily accessible. 

 A Work in Progress...

My classroom on the First Day of School.

My teacher toolbox with the adorable labels from Jameson at Lessons with Coffee. She has a great TPT store and I tend to snatch up everything that she makes. Go check it out here:

My SmartBoard stopped working in August. It was short circuiting. After many requests to having it fixed or replaced, the maintenance staff took it off. My school decided to replace it with a television (since it works well with our Apple TV and iPads). I was super glad to have this taken off since it was just taking up space for over a month.

I couldn't believe that when the wall was painted, they just painted around the room. Thankfully, I was able to track down the leftover paint and with the help of my lovely husband, we were able to fill it in.

My wonderful husband spent a few hours painting the blank spaces in my room. 

Bye, bye white spot on my blue wall. I had to live with the white spot for over a week in my room, and I was so thankful that my husband volunteered to fix the problem.

Since my new TV had been sitting in a box for a week, I asked my principal if we could hang it up. Maintenance in my room gets done A LOT quicker if done myself (and with the help of my husband)!

My lovely husband and the newly mounted TV. I have the best husband in the world.

My Current Classroom:

Our Facebook birthday wall.

I found this super cute rug at my local Ross. It was on sale and matched my room perfectly. We use this as a space to read, to work in small groups, to talk through student problems and for small group tutoring. I need some bean bag chairs, but I have yet to find ones that I like (that are reasonably priced).

A week into school we were able to switch out our small desks with two-student tables. I am not thrilled with always having students in pairs, but I am glad that my students can fit in the desks. While I tried having students in groups for the first trimester, my particular group of students still are struggling to work in groups. I decided to change things up and put them back into modified rows.

Thank you for checking out the transformation and changes in room 17. I'm thankful for all the wonderful people that have helped make this classroom a warm and welcoming place where learning can happen.


  1. What a fun read! You really went to town on this classroom! Your students are super lucky to have you as the new 6th grade teacher. I know I would want to learn in your room! Congradulations!

    Lessons With Coffee 

    1. Thank you so much! I squealed when I found out you commented on my blog. I'm hoping to continue to make it even better next year. I have a lot of ideas that I've been working, and I'm hoping to repaint the walls this summer. They definitely need it. I have to convince my administrators that we need to replace these desks (they are falling apart), but I'm hoping to do that before this year is out.

      Once again, thanks for the love. I'm hoping that these students feel the love pouring out of this room because it really is a labor of love.