First-year Halstead teacher gets classroom makeover

By LYNETTE SOWELL
Cove Leader-Press  

Halstead Elementary School second grade teacher Katherine Barker walked into a surprise on Thursday morning when she entered her classroom. 
Maria Reed, creator of the web-based series “Moving With the Military”, along with a lineup of volunteers was waiting for Barker, who’d been nominated for a classroom makeover. 
Barker is not only a first-year teacher but a military spouse, and she was nominated by fellow teacher and mentor, Christina Newberry. 
Newberry is a former Rookie of the Year teacher at Halstead and said she remembers what it was like going into her first year of teaching. She said that she met Reed because their children became friends, and when Reed asked if she knew a teacher who was a military spouse, Newberry said she immediately thought of Barker. 
“All I did was answer a question,” said Newberry of her role in setting up Barker for the surprise classroom makeover. 
Fast forward to Thursday and Barker’s surprise, when Reed and her crew of volunteers spent the day decorating Barker’s room with an emoji theme, something that Barker already had planned. 
With donations from places like Ashley Furniture and HomeBase, the transformation was completed by 4:30 on Thursday afternoon, when the completed room was revealed to Barker, who was greeted by cheerleaders along with the Five Hills Scholarship Pageant royalty. 
Barker was moved to tears at seeing the completed room, which has a floor-to-ceiling emoji tree in one corner. Reed, a former educator herself, said the tree was about building character. She also shared her hopes for what the room will mean to Barker as the school year unfolds. 
“She’ll look back and say, ‘Wow, the community came out and did this for me. Other military spouses came out to encourage me,’” Reed said. 
In planning the room, in keeping with the emoji theme, Reed said Barker would also be receiving a bundle from Teachers Pay Teachers, and that flexible seating would be set up for her by the time school starts. 
“I absolutely love it. It’s more than I could ever do myself,” Barker said about the completed room. “I’m comforted knowing that my kiddos are going to walk in on day one and everything is going to be ready for them. Being a first-year teacher, it’s not always possible to have everything you want, and I’m going to be able to have everything here for me and my students. 
“This is one of those things where I have a passion for this, and starting the year off this way, I know I’m ready. Day one, in the morning, I’ll be ready to go. I’m more confident than I was last week, because I had a whole to-do list of things to do.” 
Barker said it took her a couple of hours to process what was happening on Thursday, as she spent the day in training away from her room. 
“The idea that complete strangers heard about a military spouse whose a brand-new teacher needing help in a classroom, and they just jumped up on this and they came and way outdid themselves, and anything I could imagine,” Barker said.  
Newberry talked about the importance of classroom setup. 
“Not only do the students spend so much time here, but we do. We spend more of our waking hours collectively, as kids and as teachers, here, it needs to be inviting it needs to be a place we want to be. It needs to be a place we can learn. So not just for the kids, but a place you want to walk into every day.”
As for her own room, Newberry said it was just about ready. “It flows. It’s getting there. It will be ready on Wednesday.”
Reed began filming her web series, Moving With the Military, a little more than a year ago. The series focuses on surprise makeovers for military families. Full episodes and more can be viewed  at https://www.movingwiththemilitary.tv/.   

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