MINNEOTA, Minn. (WCCO) — There’s a classroom where knick-knacks and trinkets are celebrated.
Willy Wonka, Sponge Bob, even Beethoven himself are prominently displayed.
But they are just a small part of a big idea for Heather Anderson.
In college, Heather fell in love with the English language and became a teacher. She eventually returned to her hometown of Minneota to do what she does best.
“This used to be the computer lab when I was in school,” she said. “And now it’s my classroom, so it’s kind of surreal to be back in here.”
And it’s surreal for her students to learn in here.
“I don’t usually sit in this spot, but it’s comfy,” said sophomore Nolan Boerboom while sitting in a recliner.
If there’s an apple for the teacher, there’s a recliner for the student.
Her teaching space is like a living room and a classroom rolled into one. Heather got the idea from an elementary teacher.
“I thought- why are we stopping?” she said. “Why are we not still doing this in high school if there are so many benefits.”
So after getting the go-ahead from the principal, she went to work on a classroom makeover.
“I slowly had to accumulate furniture,” Heather said. “It’s really hard to find things on my budget, which was basically free. These two tables actually came from my grandparents’ home. I just painted them up.”
Dining room tables, a couch, rocking chairs and lounge chairs. She even channeled her inner-Bob Villa.
“I raided my husband and father-in-laws garages looking for wood,” she said. “I just nailed boards together. And then my husband came home and saw them sitting outside and said — if you are going to put kids around them, we have to fix them.”
But now, they’re a fixture.
“We were all thinking she might be a little crazy because we’ve never seen it in action,” said Jessia Rosa, who teaches social studies across the hall.
She was skeptical at first, but now she’s incorporating these ideas into her own room.
“The kids are excited to be in here,” she said. “They like to choose where they sit and we are excited to start implementing it as well.”
After the first month, Heather was actually ready to give up on her lounge-chair learning idea. There was just too much talking going on. But then she did what she’s always asking her students to do- she listened.
“And when I did, they were talking about the topics,” Heather said.
“I have three other friends who like to sit at this table, and we really help each other when we write,” said sophomore Anna Gruenes.
“I like it because it puts us in an environment where we learn best,” Nolan said. “You get to choose your spots so it’s better for everyone.”
Heather has seen vast improvement. Discipline has gone down and collaboration has gone up.
“The kids will always say at the end of the hour – that went really fast,” she said. “That’s what I want to hear them say when they leave my room. I say, yep, time flies when we’re having fun.”
Because of her work with high school students, Heather was nominated last year for teacher-of-the-year in Minnesota.