Interior design students reveal elementary school classroom renovations

Thursday, August 8, 2019
Written by: Emily Hollingshead

Azubah “Acede” Clarke leads Krista Phelps-Elliott into her redesigned classroom at Altamonte Elementary where she will teach deaf and hard-of-hearing students.

Watch WKMG's report or WESH's report to see the students in action!

Phelps-Elliott's redesigned classroom features shades of blue and robots.

When Krista Phelps-Elliott walks into her classroom at Altamonte Elementary, the first thing she notices is the new, bright blue of the walls. Her room is now colorful, with stacks of cubbies and a playful robot motif whereas before she described the room as “cumbersome.” Earlier this year, Phelps-Elliott submitted an essay as part of Addition Financial’s Renovate to Educate program for a chance to win a $2,000 classroom makeover. The credit union chose four deserving teachers across Central Florida’s counties and partnered with Seminole State College of Florida’s Interior Design program to make the renovations a reality. 

The Seminole State students spent time in the spring gathering information from their respective teachers about their needs, taking field measurements and sketching the space as it was. They designed concepts for what the classroom could be and budgeted their designs with the money allotted. They presented the designs to Addition Financial and, once approved, set to work spending three to five days transforming the classrooms. 

Some rooms presented unique challenges. Marina Crossman redesigned Jill Rissetto’s classroom at St. Cloud Elementary in Osceola County, who teaches ESE students with autism. “I wanted to keep the layout of the room similar to what it was beforehand,” Crossman said since these students function best in familiar spaces. However, she was able to design an improved “calm-down corner” for when the students become overstimulated and utilized muted, relaxing colors in her design. 

(L-R) Brittany Shivers, Heather Engelking, Katie Bowman with Addition Financial, Azubah “Acede” Clarke, Krista Phelps-Elliott,  Marina Crossman, Chelsi Fonseca, Nicola Kavanagh, and Interim Vice President, Financial Services/CFO Rick Collins.

The interior design students will be able to use the project on their resumes and work portfolios, showing that they have overseen an entire project in the real world before they graduated. While redesigning a room for Millenia Elementary School in Orange County, student Chelsi Fonseca found the hands-on work challenging and exciting. “We actually had to overcome hurdles when we got to the classroom for the first renovation,” Fonseca said, “so that was a process of trying to come up with an idea on the fly about how are we going to make this good, how is it going to look like how I originally wanted it, and is it going to function the same way that it was originally planned for.”

Ultimately for the Seminole State students, the program was an opportunity to see the impact of their work and how interior design can positively influence people and processes. Nicola Kavanagh saw first-hand how her work brought joy to fifth-grade science teacher Caryn Long of Treadway Elementary in Lake County. “She was so happy and emotional, you really felt that she loved the design for the classroom as well as the kids,” Kavanagh said. “So, I think that was the perfect moment for me.” Kavanagh designed the classroom to resemble a science lab, with long metal tables and stools instead of traditional desks, in the hope that the space will inspire an interest in STEM among the children.

For Phelps-Elliott, she is thrilled with the changes that Azubah “Acede” Clarke made to her room, including easily movable furniture and open spaces for visibility for her deaf and partially deaf students. Ultimately, it was Clarke’s little touches that truly blew her away, including displaying Phelps-Elliot’s ‘I love you’ sign language statue and the clock that incorporated photos of her students. “She just did so many special little touches that are just so meaningful, and you can just see that she put her heart into everything,” Phelps-Elliott said.

This is the second year interior design students from Seminole State teamed up with Addition Financial, the College’s preferred credit union, to provide classroom makeovers for deserving teachers and their students through Renovate to Educate. 



About the Interior Design program

Seminole State College offers the only four-year public interior design program in Central Florida. The program prepares students for the professional industry by providing knowledge and skills to solve a variety of design problems with the core value of protecting the health, safety and welfare of the public. For more information, visit the Interior Design website.

About Addition Financial

Founded in 1937 by 23 educators, Addition Financial serves more than 150,000 members. With more than $1.74 billion in total assets, Addition Financial offers its members an array of financial products and services at 22 full-service branches, nine high school branches, and more than 40 ATMs. Anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers, or attends school in Orange, Seminole, Osceola, and Lake Counties may become a member. Qualified businesses and other entities may join as well. Addition Financial is the Official Financial Institution of the UCF Knights and owns the naming rights to the Addition Financial Arena on the University of Central Florida campus. Addition Financial is also the Preferred Credit Union for Seminole State College.

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