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How would you prepare a classroom?

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WINONA — Many kids race through their days at Winona-area schools without thinking twice about the physical space in which they learn.

That space often is created intentionally — and through a lot of work and, sometimes, money — throughout the summer by teachers preparing to welcome students back into their classrooms.

Two Winona teachers — Madison Elementary's Amanda Indra and Bluffview Montessori's Lauren Lund — shed light on how teachers prepare their classroom space for students and just how important that space can be.

Indra, the second-grade bilingual teacher for the Spanish Immersion program at Madison Elementary, is new to the program but not to teaching. She taught in Houston, Minn., for three years and at Lewiston-Altura High School for 12 years. She got her master's degree in teaching English learners two years ago.

"I'm doing a lot more preparing this year than I did last year," she said of the work put in by teachers who teach the newer Spanish immersion program. "I've been writing a lot of curriculum. ... I have to create a lot of things."

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Indra said she has spent five to 10 hours per week since July arranging desks, bulletin boards and space for her intern from Spain. She wants the space to be "a welcome area, so when they come they're excited about being there."

The arrangement of the room aside, the artwork in Indra's room is unique to the immersion program.

"The things you'll see in a normal elementary classroom you definitely see, but in Spanish," she said.

For example, Indra has a world map in Spanish she plans to hang. Furthermore, Indra adds a personal touch to her classroom inspired by two trips to Costa Rica. She traveled there with a group of students in 2006 and 2011. Indra has a jungle-themed reading corner, complete with comfy pillows, Spanish books and artwork bought on the trips. The objects with Spanish on them will help students to be further immersed in the language, said Indra.

As far as the money used to create this atmosphere, most of that comes out of a teacher's pocket.

"There is a budget available, but that only goes so far," she said. "A lot of it comes out of our pocket."

Lund also spends money out-of-pocket on supplies for class.

"You get busy, you don't turn in your receipt ... it adds up," she said of buying supplies for her classroom each year. "The kids need it, so you buy it."

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While Indra works to create a creative atmosphere immersed in Spanish language at Madison Elementary, Lund, who teaches Erkinder (seventh- and eighth-graders) at Bluffview Montessori School, works with three other teachers to create a space that is entirely for the students.

"All of us get together and decide the best way to rearrange the room for the students," said Lund. "With the Montessori philosophy ... it's more student-focused than teacher-focused."

For this reason, the space is organized with an open design. The teacher's desk is in the corner instead of at the front of the room, and the students have shelf cubby space in the center of the room, said Lund.

"The space then becomes the student's space," she added.

This is Lund's fifth year teaching and her second year at Bluffview Montessori. She recently finished a five-week graduate school program learning more about adolescents. Lund said most teachers spend at least three weeks preparing their classrooms for students to return in the fall.

The displayed artwork is just like the space — all the student's own.

"We like to wait for students to put up artwork," she said, adding students have painted murals on bookshelves and walls that are kept up. Lund said this makes the environment "one that students feel safe in" so they can "turn their minds to learning."

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