Trinity students started the spring semester in a “whole new world” – a purposefully renovated building where everything was intentionally designed for students with learning differences.
“From the minute you walk into the building, you can see and feel the difference,” said Becky Edmonds, middle school division head and Trinity School’s longest serving educator. “That’s because in almost every aspect, ‘there’s a reason for that.’”
Edmonds’ husband is an architect, her son is a construction project manager and her daughter majors in interior design in college, so she has developed a keen eye for design. Combined with her expertise in teaching children with learning challenges, Edmonds was key in helping accomplish the vision for the new school.
“First, you’ll notice that the colors are muted and the walls are uncluttered. While it might seem ‘sterile’ to some, it’s very calming for our students,” Edmonds said. “The space is also much larger than typical classrooms. Because we keep our class sizes small, the students have so much more room to move about.”
Edmonds teaches lower school and middle school science, cursive handwriting, social skills and middle school math. With so many different hats, she loves the various designated learning spaces and the design and technology that went into planning them.
Each room has a smartboard, bulletin and white boards, and much of the room is left with a simple aesthetic. The smartboards are paired with students’ iPads, and they can follow along while the teacher is reading. Even the furniture and colors have been thoughtfully designed and change with each school level. In addition, wiggle stools can be used by students to give them a little bit of motion and help them concentrate. The classrooms are also equipped with a “front row system” where teachers wear pendant microphones to help with any auditory processing.
“For most kids, until they reach 13, about 25 percent of what the teacher says doesn’t reach the brain. And it gets progressively worse toward the back of the classroom, where it could be closer to 40 percent” Edmonds said. “This system helps overcome that, where everyone in the classroom can hear. And in a large and uncluttered room, their eyes, ears and thoughts can all concentrate on what the teacher is saying and doing.”
The building also has designated rooms for science, art and reading therapy. Outside of the classrooms, the kids have spaces to learn and relax, including full access to the library, a computer room with Google Chromebook computers, and a gym that can serve as a storm shelter big enough for the whole school. Each school level also has “hang out rooms” designed for each age group.
“These rooms are informal, funky spaces with couches and tables that can be used for study hall, or just to hang out and relax, to get your brain back in order,” Edmonds said.
Having been at Trinity for 30 years, Edmonds has been through a lot of professional and on-the-job training for teaching kids with learning differences. She sees the new school as a great accomplishment for her, faculty, staff and most importantly students. “Trinity’s mission is to provide a nurturing, safe environment to our students so they can reach their fullest social and academic potentials. And this new environment really enables them to do so!”
“Education is ever-changing and different for each child. If they’re having trouble, we want to help them solve that, find the concrete way that they can learn best,” she said. “I love the kids and I love that they learn differently. Whether that’s dyslexia or if they are somewhere on the Autism Spectrum Disorder, now we have the perfect space to help facilitate that their unique style of learning.”