Meghan Davis walked into Room 9 at Wilson Hill Elementary School in Worthington on Tuesday and felt as if she had stepped into a time machine.
Davis, a first-grade teacher at the school, barely recognized the room. Sure, the big windows that framed the sprawling green lawn were still there and the sink was in the same place. But the white tables with succulents on them, the gray carpet in front of the Smartboard, the wobbly stools around the U-shaped table, the storage cabinets and supply containers in the back corner — all of it was new.
“I really can’t believe I’m in the same space,” Davis said moments after seeing her classroom for the first time this summer.
Davis’ classroom was renovated as part of a national contest organized by Lakeshore Learning Materials, a California-based company that makes educational tools and classroom furniture for teachers.
Lakeshore partnered with a popular teacher on social media, Melanie Ralbusky, who created her own line of classroom decor called Schoolgirl Style. Ralbusky, who is from Flint, Michigan, designed the classroom.
Davis’ application was one of two selected from more than 2,000 applications from teachers across the country who submitted written essays; the other winner teaches first grade in Falls Church, Virginia. Davis, 25, said hers focused on why her students are so important.
“They mean everything. I know that they’re the future, the next generation of doctors, lawyers, or even the next bus driver, teacher or actor,” she said.
Davis hopes the redesigned room provides the students with a nurturing environment.
“You never know what a student encounters before the school day or after and so creating a safe haven where they are able to be at ease, to relax and to be loved, and feel enough, I think, will definitely encourage them and provide them with the opportunity to grow,” said Davis, who is in her third year teaching.
The grand reveal of Davis’ classroom comes a little more than a week before Worthington students in first through ninth grades start the new year Aug. 14. Tenth, 11th and 12th graders go back the following day.
The redesign of Davis’ classroom is valued around $5,000. On Tuesday, the classroom had the identifiable smell of newness, like a car as it’s driven off the lot or a pair of sneakers coming out of the box.
Ralbusky, who was a teacher for 19 years before running her classroom decor business full-time, said it took her four days to transform Room 9. Her many years in her own classroom motivated Ralbusky to create a special, calming atmosphere for Davis, she said.
That’s what she hoped to accomplish with the greenery dotting the classroom — from real succulents on the tables to plant posters on the walls — and faux wood elements, such as trim on the windows. It looked like a room in a house renovated by Chip and Joanna Gaines.
“I know how important this space is. And I know that teachers are on a tight budget,” Ralbusky said.
She also added flex seating to Davis’ classroom, a growing trend that some teachers say helps students relax and learn better.
Below a large window, there’s a long white bench for seating and seven pillow seats on the ground. When five of Davis’ former students had a chance Tuesday to see the classroom, they gravitated toward the pillow seats. One of them gushed about how soft they were.
When the students first entered their old room, jaws dropped and two girls said, in near unison, “Oh my gosh.”