When Ash-Lee Higgins walked into her new classroom at Vial Elementary for the school year, it was plain, barren, and devoid of any color. She then poured through several boxes of colorful posters and decorations because she wanted to make sure the classroom her kindergarten students walked into was much different.

“I want to make it feel as comfortable as my home would be," she said.

Higgins has obtained the items that will turn her classroom from a four-wall box into a home away from home through other teachers and through her own expense.

“A teacher’s mantra is beg, borrow, and steal,” Higgins joked when talking about her classroom décor. “I do buy a lot of it myself because it really is an investment in your career.”

Ash-Lee Higgins' classroom before she decorated.
Ash-Lee Higgins' classroom after she decorated.

When your career is teaching children, a welcoming and comfortable environment can have a significant impact on how a student learns.September Garrett is a teacher at Legacy Preparatory Charter Academy in Mesquite and remembers a quote from Albert Einstein who said, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”That is why Garrett gives her students a certain level of control over how they learn. Her classroom is a far cry from wooden desks and blackboards. Instead, she has furnished it with yoga balls, a couch, and Christmas lights strung across the ceiling.“We use alternative seating, so the kids can have a choice and voice over their learning style,” said Garrett. “You cannot make a child feel at their most creative if we are putting them in boxes.”Such is the difference between a teacher-funded classroom and a government-funded classroom. Providing such an environment might cost a teacher hundreds of dollars, but Garrett said it is a cost of caring.“Coming from a place of love, you take those kids on as your own kids, and we do not mind spending money for our own kids.”