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Freedom Elementary teachers move into school's new addition

Sarah Orcutt, a second grade teacher at Freedom Elementary School, loves the book nook she's created in her new classroom. She says the new addition is a fresh start.
Sarah Orcutt, a second grade teacher at Freedom Elementary School, loves the book nook she's created in her new classroom. She says the new addition is a fresh start.
Photo by Liz Ramos
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Emmaline McWhorter, a second grade teacher at Freedom Elementary School, has never had a classroom to call her own. 

Before moving to Florida in May, she was a substitute teacher for Cherokee County Schools in Georgia. She always had to abide by the teacher’s rules and adjust to the teacher’s classroom. 

But now in her first year at Freedom Elementary as a regular teacher, she’s making the classroom all her own. 

McWhorter has decided to have a fruit theme for her classroom so she can incorporate fun, bright colors. 

“I’ve enjoyed being able to set up and figure out how I want things to work and also see how teachers are doing their rooms,” she said. “I love feeding off other ideas. It’s nice to feel like this space is my own. It gives it a lot more personal feeling.”

McWhorter, and her fellow second grade teachers, are able to have a clean slate when it comes to setting up their classrooms as they have moved into the new eight-classroom addition at Freedom Elementary. 

Mary Himler, a second grade teacher at Freedom Elementary School, is adding her personal touches to her classroom in the new addition. They include a bench that her students sign each year.
Photo by Liz Ramos

The addition was completed in July, giving the second grade teachers and two physical education coaches an opportunity to move into their new classrooms and offices before the start of the school year Aug. 10. 

“The kids will be excited (about the addition),” said Mary Himler, a second grade teacher. “The colors are a little bit different. The desks are new, everything is new. It’s kind of like getting new clothes for the first day of school.”

Sarah Orcutt, a second grade teacher new to Freedom Elementary and in her 23rd year as a teacher, said moving into the new addition is exciting.

“It smells great,” Orcutt said with a laugh. “It has that clean, fresh feeling. It’s a great start to a new year. You get excited about a new year in general, and this really helps.

"You have a clean slate to work with and there’s no idea of what I used to do. It’s all just refreshing with new desks and new everything. You get to set up your own space for the very first time, which is very exciting.”

McWhorter, Orcutt and Himler said having all of second grade in one building helps to bring the students together as the teachers form a cohesive team, especially with two of the six teachers being new to Freedom Elementary. 

“It’s always fun getting new students,” Himler said. “From the day they walk in the classroom, we become a family and a team. We get to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. The same is for our teachers, we build off each other and work together to learn.”

Emmaline McWhorter, a second grade teacher at Freedom Elementary School, says it's great to have flexible seating options available in her classroom.
Photo by Liz Ramos

Himler said it's beneficial to have the second-grade teachers in close proximity.

When Orcutt was setting up her classroom Aug. 3, she was able to hear a few of the other second grade teachers chatting and easily was able to walk over and join in the conversation. 

McWhorter sees being across the hall or next door to her fellow teachers is an opportunity to not only develop relationships and get to know students in her class but in others as well. 

“It feels a lot easier to connect with people and be close with your grade level,” she said. 

Each classroom in the new addition features desks that are easily moveable to allow for teachers to change the layout of their classrooms with ease, Promethean boards, and flexible seating options such as wobble stools. 

Flexible seating has become more standard in classrooms as it allows students to choose a seating option that best suits their needs. For example, wobble stools allow students to wiggle while they work rather than remain stationary in a regular desk chair. 

Orcutt said the new furniture allows for her to be flexible in her classroom.

“If your setup isn’t working for the students, then you can change it,” she said. “You can get student input on where they’d like to be. You can move it in an arrangement that works for them. Instead of little typical rows that people imagine when they imagine schools, you can have them in large groups and small groups. You can put them in a big ‘u.’”



Liz Ramos

Liz Ramos covers education and community for East County. Before moving to Florida, Liz was an education reporter for the Lynchburg News & Advance in Virginia for two years after graduating from the Missouri School of Journalism.

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