2 (2nd grade teachers) x 2 elementary schools + 40 eager learners = collaborative learning of the highest (and most engaging!) order.
Hebron Valley Elementary second-grade teacher Tina Montegudo had an idea. And as she frequently does when she has an idea, she shared it with her friend and Highland Village Elementary second-grade teacher Shana Murphy.
“I had seen a story about a classroom full of tables, the tops of which were white boards,” Montegudo said, “And the learners in the photos were clearly engaged. They looked more eager to participate than I had ever seen a student with a pencil and paper. It was an innovation that I hadn’t thought of before and one I was sure could inspire my students.”
A few days later, Hebron Valley Principal Adrienne Gall mentioned the same tables in a meeting with Montegudo. “I decided then I wanted to get rid of desks in my room and replace them with these tables,” Montegudo explained. “I knew it wouldn’t be cheap, so I hoped I could convince LEF to fund them for me.”
That’s when she called Murphy. As Montegudo shared her idea, Murphy was intrigued. She knew her students would thrive with the innovative furnishings as well.
“I just knew it would allow them to work in a whole different way,” Murphy said. “So I stole her idea. I wrote a grant, too.”
Murphy was a little tense when grants were awarded. “I was thrilled to get mine,” Murphy said. “But then it wasn’t easy to wait to hear from Tina. I couldn’t get too excited until I knew she was awarded, too. It would have been a tough situation because I got the idea from her.”
Finally, when both teachers secured their grants, ordered and received their tables and got them set up in their rooms, the fun began.
“We use them daily to work math problems, to draw out the equation,” Montegudo said. “But they aren’t just for math. They have really allowed the collaborative work in every subject to flourish, and when that happens, I see learning take off.”
Students and parents are excited about the tables as well. Highland Village Elementary put them on display recently at their “Day in the Life of an HVE Student,” event for parents. “It was great to see parents and students learning alongside each other using the tables,” Highland Village Elementary Shawna Miller said. “They provide students a fun and functional tool for collaborating and sharing thoughts in a new way. There has been an increase in student engagement; it’s not uncommon to walk into Mrs. Murphy’s classroom and be greeted with students eager to share their thinking displayed on the tables.”
The students are eager to share their thoughts on the tables. Some of them quite literally, by writing them on the tables. Others shared aloud. “The tables and markers are more versatile,” Hebron Valley student Armand Lokhandwalla explained. “There’s more space to work with and it’s not a rectangle with lines.”
For some students, the benefits were rather utilitarian. “It’s just easier to see my black marker on the white table than it is to see pencil on paper,” Highland Village Student Edward Tobuy said. “It makes it easier to keep track of my math work and my ideas.”
Regardless of their reasons, the bottom line is that students, teachers, parents and administrators are energized by what the tables provide at both schools.
“We are thrilled LEF recognized Ms. Montegudo through the annual teacher grant process,” Gall said. “The funding assisted in creating a flexible learning environment in which students own their space and collaborate with one another easily. We are honored to have partnered with LEF to make this classroom thrive.”