Contest win allows Westminster educator to transform her classroom

Fryberger Elementary School teacher Lauren Vu-Tran is utilizing innovative furniture to engage students after winning the 'Transform Your Classroom' contest.

Contest win allows Westminster educator to transform her classroom
Fryberger Elementary School teacher Lauren Vu-Tran instructs her students in their newly refurnished classroom on Dec. 4. Photo by Jeannette Andruss.

The students at Fryberger Elementary School in Westminster couldn’t believe their eyes when they walked into reading specialist Lauren Vu-Tran’s classroom on Monday morning. 

The first graders’ mouths dropped open and their eyes grew bigger when they saw their transformed learning space for the first time. 

“Wow!” one boy gasped. “Cool!” said another student. “So pretty,” one girl gushed.

Gone were the wooden and metal desks the students had been using all school year. In their place, the kids found a U-shaped dry erase table paired with wobbly stools, made for wiggly little ones. Students jumped onto the newly installed colorful oversized lounge chairs and tested out a large couch perfect for cuddling up with a book. 

The makeover was all because Vu-Tran had entered and won the “Transform Your Classroom” competition put on by furniture manufacturer The HON Company in partnership with OES Office Furniture, a Rancho Cucamonga-based furniture provider.

“It’s really a dream come true,” Vu-Tran said before the unveiling on Dec. 4, marveling at the new learning environment she was able to create.

An educator of 30 years, Vu-Tran said she is in her fourth year at Fryberger, a K-5 campus with an environmental science focus in the Westminster School District. She’s a reading specialist who works daily with 78 kids in grades kindergarten through second grade for 30 minute lessons, usually carried out in small groups.

“I had the oldest desks in the district,” Vu-Tran shared. The long-time teacher had developed a vision to update her classroom using furniture to engage her students. 

Vu-Tran submitted this video, a tour of her classroom, as part of her application to the 'Transform your Classroom' contest.

In her video submission for the contest, Vu-Tran explained how she had already been working on ways to refurbish her "Reading Academy."

“It has taken me three years, writing about five different grants, to get funding to get what I have right now as is,” she said in the video tour of her classroom. “But I would love it to be able to get more help to redesign this classroom to take it from really a nice, colorful classroom to be the cutting-edge, flexible seating, classroom environment with cozy nooks so that  kids can come in here and enjoy reading and letting their imaginations soar.”

After the win, Vu-Tran teamed up with professional designers from The HON Company to execute her vision. She used a variety of furniture styles and flexible seating to build seven learning zones, offering her students different ways to engage with their reading lessons.

“Updated spaces are designed to promote active learning, which involves students taking a more hands-on and participatory approach to learning,” Vu-Tran wrote in a news release from the district.

This is what Vu-Tran's classroom at Fryberger Elementary School looked like before she won the 'Transform Your Classroom' contest. Photo courtesy of the Westminster School District.
Fryberger first graders test out the new seating inside Vu-Tran's transformed classroom on Dec. 4. Photo by Jeannette Andruss

The lounge chairs in a circle offer an opportunity for students to read together and discuss the text. Soft cushions on top of a moveable bookshelf can be easily removed for reading on the floor. The couch is a place where students can do independent or group reading.

Vu-Tran beat out 21 other applicants to win this year’s contest. “This just stood out,” said Preston Evans, the CEO of OES, in reference to Vu-Tran’s application. He said her enthusiasm and clear plan for the reimagining of her learning environment were key.

“She had a vision for how to use the furniture,” said Megan Conner, business development manager for HON.

The estimated cost to upgrade Vu-Tran's classroom was around $20,000, according to Alan Schlom, regional vice president of OES. 

The HON Company and OES started the classroom transformation contest in 2022. It’s open to educators in public, private, and charter schools in Southern California. Last year, teacher Jessica Morten at Monte Vista Elementary School in the Santa Ana Unified School District won the contest. Representatives from both companies said they plan to hold the competition in 2024.

"It's the most rewarding thing I do all year," Conner shared at the unveiling.

Vu-Tran was very grateful for the opportunity to reimagine her classroom. She encouraged other educators to reach out to their communities and local businesses in support of students.

“We need to engage with our community in partnerships to get the best for our students,” Vu-Tran said. “Look what it can do.”

Fryberger Elementary School students pose in their newly refurnished 'Reading Academy' classroom with teacher Lauren Vu-Tran, school staff, Westminster School District administrators, and representatives of The HON Company and OES Office Furniture. Photo by Tony Phan from WSD.

Take a look at this video from the Fryberger Elementary School Instagram account for a closer look at the new learning spaces in Vu-Tran's classroom.

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