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Fresh, cool on wish list

LAND O'LAKES

Jill Hallauer has taught art in the same classroom since Pine View Elementary opened in 2003.

She changes the decorations every year. She displays student works. But still it remains at its core the same — white, white, white.

"It should get a makeover," fifth-grader Spencer Kress said Wednesday, as he worked on optical illusion artwork. "It's been like this for, like, two years now, maybe even more."

Thanks to Bounty paper towels and its teacher-support website, teacherwishlist.com, that's about to happen.

Pine View won a $25,000 art room renovation from the company, which drew the winner out of all the schools that had at least five teachers seek classroom supplies and prizes from the website.

"This is actually great because we call ourselves endangered species," Hallauer said, referring to art teachers. "This couldn't have happened at a better time. It will show how important art is for the kids."

She already had prepared a wish list for HGTV-featured designers Cortney and Robert Novogratz to consider as they rethink the rectangular space. It included colors — "lots of color on the walls" — as well as materials that students can use over and over, such as portrait mirrors, stencils and slab rollers.

"We would love a projector so we can be up with technology," Hallauer added.

Robert Novogratz said he and his wife support arts in the schools because they're so important to students — perhaps more so than the core courses that schools focus on.

"We're not an industrial nation anymore," he said. "Yet the core curriculum hasn't changed much. What they have done is taken out the important things. … The education system doesn't reward kids who are great artists and musicians."

He said the design will honor the teacher's wish list while also looking for unconventional ways to make the classroom cool.

"We're going to give them something they want but also something they haven't thought about," Novogratz said.

Pine View teachers signed up on teacherwishlist.com to let people know what supply donations would be appreciated, and to qualify for weekly giveaways worth $462 — the amount the average teacher spends out of pocket on classroom supplies each year. Their primary goal was getting more needed classroom supplies without breaking the bank.

The Pine View teachers said they usually spend anywhere from $400 to $600 of their own money a year for things such as baby wipes and pencils, and that's in addition to asking families for donations and seeking grants.

"We didn't want to put such a hardship on parents with the cutbacks," second-grade teacher Diane Epifanio said. "I immediately thought, What a great way to start letting our needs be known."

They vaguely knew of the grand prize. But it seemed like playing the lottery, third-grade teacher Jennifer Ford said.

"You'd love to win, but it's doubtful," she explained.

None of the teachers won a weekly giveaway from the website. But they were thrilled nonetheless to have their participation lead to the big award.

"Our gift is the art room," said first-grade teacher Renee Benore.

Students said they could hardly wait to see the finished product when it's unveiled, most likely some time in December. The Novogratzes will work with a team for five days in secret before revealing what they've come up with.

It remains undecided whether the project will be filmed and televised on HGTV's Home by Novogratz, as the couple's previous school project at an Orlando school was.

"I'm excited," fifth-grader Brianna Portzen said. It's been the same "since I've been in this room, since first grade. It's nice to have a change."

Just so long as they don't change the teacher, too, Brianna added. "She's fun."

Hallauer said she probably won't rest while the team takes over her classroom. Maybe, she said, they'll let her help.

She planned to have a conference call with the designers today to begin talking details. After watching some of the their work on past television shows, Hallauer said she had high hopes for the outcome.

"I think they're going to make it awesome," she said. "With all the pressures (students) have in the classrooms, they need a little creative sunshine. We're hoping to have that here."

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at solochek@sptimes.com or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook.

Case study: before and after

The Pine View Elementary classroom makeover won't be the first for Cortney and Robert Novogratz. The designers also remade a music classroom at Orlando's Winegard Elementary in March, also in conjunction with Bounty paper towels. For that $50,000 project, the couple added structure, reorganization and supplies to the classroom, as well as providing a new public address system for the school. They described it as going "from drab to fab."

Fresh, cool on wish list 11/02/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 2, 2011 8:54pm]
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