City kindergarten teacher surprised with classroom makeover

James Mosher Elementary teacher chosen from 20 for updated classroom

  • Abby Haven, right, stands with her students and contest committee member Violet Cousin. Haven wrote an essay and submitted photographs of her classroom and was chosen from 20 entries.
Abby Haven, right, stands with her students and contest committee… (Steve Ruark, BALTIMORE…)
February 23, 2011|By Erica L. Green, The Baltimore Sun

The Baltimore Teachers Union brought a kindergarten teacher to tears Wednesday, surprising her and her 26 students with an extreme makeover of her dilapidated classroom.

Abby Haven, a teacher for the past two years at James Mosher Elementary School, was chosen from a pool of 20 teachers who applied to the union and its parent organization, the American Federation of Teachers, for the prize. The program has been in other districts around the country for more than five years, and it's the second time a city school has won.

Haven submitted an essay to the union earlier this year, expressing her hope to replace the stained carpet that could trigger her students' allergies and asthma, and to provide her students with shelving so that they could be better organized. She also sent pictures of her classroom, where molding was peeling from the floor.

Haven said that James Mosher, a strong academic school, underwent a remodeling in recent years, but Haven's classroom was left out because it wasn't one slated for use until Haven moved in.

"I wanted to make sure that the students had the fair and equal opportunity that other students had," Haven said. "I just expressed that these students, who are already doing well, deserve better and that they needed a classroom that was up to par."

A community panel of 10 judges chose Haven from the other city teachers who vied for the makeover. Teacher submissions were ranked out of 100 points, and were graded for an essay, photos and demonstrating a strong need for the makeover.

The city teachers union said that it will remodel the classroom over the summer, and will look for community donations to complete the makeover, estimated at about $2,000. A design team will meet with Haven in the next few months to decide how the room will change.

The union said that the program was established to boost teachers' morale.

"It's extremely important because the teacher needs to be comfortable in the classroom — they spend seven hours a day there at least," said Jessica Aldon, spokeswoman for the Baltimore Teachers Union. "It cheers everybody up to make the schools look nice."

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