This summer, Flint kindergarten teacher, Jessica Reed, received a makeover of her classroom at Northridge Academy. This fantastic surprise was all due to the generosity of a longtime family friend, Melanie Ralbusky, a former teacher who is now a designer.
For over 20 years, Ralbusky brought her passion and creativity to the classroom while teaching at the elementary level. Today, she shares that same commitment by enhancing educational spaces through her vibrant décor brand, Schoolgirl Style™. “I do classroom makeovers for deserving teachers,” she explains. “I bring a fashion element to the learning environment.”
The former teacher grew up in Flint and wanted to do something for her hometown. And she couldn’t think of a more deserving educator than Reed for a classroom makeover. The designer has known Reed’s family for many years, starting when Reed’s sister (who has Down syndrome) was a student in Ralbusky’s class when she taught in the Grand Blanc School District. “I became close to the family,” she remembers, and was impressed by the way Reed’s mom, a single mother, advocated for her daughter and how Reed advocated for her sister.
Ralbusky stayed in touch with the family and was not surprised when Reed went on to college to become an educator. “When she went into teaching, I knew it was her chosen profession.”
Ralbusky was happy to gift Reed with the classroom makeover. “She deserves it. She is so dedicated to her kids.” The process was supposed to have begun in April, but the COVID-19 crisis threw a monkey wrench into the plans. It finally took place in July and a reveal of the classroom was held on July 31.
“She redid my entire classroom!” Reed exclaims, adding that the makeover was done in consideration of safety guidelines due to COVID-19. The room was repainted and furnished with new flex-seating tables and stools instead of chairs. Since the room was very small, storage units were also required. “The furniture is very modern, safe and very comfortable,” Ralbusky reports.
Northridge Academy students deserve every possible opportunity for success, so it was very important to Ralbusky to provide a cozy, warm classroom atmosphere. Due to the distancing requirements, fewer tables and stools were set up, but the designer took that into consideration. “We have additional equipment stored for when the classroom returns to capacity,” Ralbusky notes. “And, I can’t wait for that day,” adds Reed.
Currently, Northridge Academy is operating on a virtual learning model until the end of September with teachers instructing students from their classrooms. When able, students will return to the classroom to learn in a hybrid virtual/in-class format.
As no students or family members were able to attend the Makeover Reveal, the entire K-8 teaching faculty, office staff and janitors attended. “I broke down in tears,” Reed remembers. “I didn’t have words. I was shocked by the transformation. It’s beautiful.”
“I was really proud of the room,” says Ralbusky. “I had to do my homework due to COVID, but we left no stone unturned. To create this new environment, we had to think outside of the box. It exceeded my expectations. It’s the best room I’ve ever done.”
With Jessica Reed’s classroom ready for a bright future, Melanie Ralbusky still had some generosity to spare. After the Makeover Reveal, with the support of Carson Dellosa Education, each Northridge teacher received their own Schoolgirl Style collection. “Melanie’s heart is gold,” Reed says. “This is going to be life-changing for my students.”