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Staff Rooms: Lounge Acts

Ask any teacher. The staff lounge isn’t just another room—it’s a haven for harried educators, a sanctuary for stressed-out staff, an oasis of sanity in a Lilliputian world. No matter how much they love the kids, educators need a corner of the school to call their very own. So what makes any self-respecting lounge worthy of its restful name? Ultimately, you say, it’s not comfy couches or tranquil colors, it’s friendly colleagues ready to listen. Check out the lounges NEA Today voted “Most Likely To Inspire.”


A place to “rest your weary bones” strikes a special chord with the teachers at York Elementary School. Our lounge, affectionately named “The Escape Hatch,” contains the usual kitchen appliances, along with a white board for special announcements. But we also have a life-size skeleton from our upper-grade science classes. “Bones” has always managed to dress appropriately for whatever occasion we’re celebrating. Bones has been a cowboy, worn a bikini, been “pregnant” for baby showers, been decked out à la Betty Crocker, and always wears pink and denim on Breast Cancer Denim Day in October. Of course, food is always present at these celebrations, and Bones is the only one who hasn’t gained any weight over the years! Carolyn Sandall, York, Nebraska


We transformed the Spring Grove Middle School lounge from a bland room where staff gathered to complain to a “French café” with Parisian posters and atmospheric floor lights where colleagues can have a snack (and maybe even catch a show). We end the week with a potluck meal beneath a poster of Dr. Phil telling us what a great job we’re doing, and we’ve even held an after-school coffee house, where a colleague played guitar, serenading us by candlelight. The show was such a hit, we plan to bring back retired teachers as featured musical and comedy acts. It’s a fun way for educators with a wealth of experience to meet and encourage new teachers. Anthony Bachman, Spring Grove, Pennsylvania




Imagine how we felt when we walked into our lounge at the beginning of the school year only to get the shock of our lives. Our principal, his wife, the assistant principal, and a PTO mom had spent their weekend working on an extreme makeover. The once stark white walls were painted a buttery yellow. One area of the room held a new couch and chair with colorful pillows, large plants in beautiful planters, and a sleek magazine rack; and our once-bare lunch tables were decorated with placemats, flowering plants, and candy dishes. But that wasn’t all—soothing music from a CD player welcomed us as we walked in! Now the staff at Connoquenessing Valley Elementary School has a great haven where we can hang out, laugh, cry, and, above all, share.

Michele Zorn Zelienople, Pennsylvania


Time to spruce up the Reinbeck Elementary School faculty lounge, but how could we make a big impact without blowing our budget? A former colleague who’s a retired teacher-turned-decorator came to our rescue, and the school, local businesses, and a parent group donated money and supplies. The decorating plan: hide the clutter, make the dining area more intimate and less institutional, and turn our lounge into a “home away from home” where staff could collaborate in comfort. We used paint donated by a local lumberyard, bought secondhand furniture, found bamboo shades for the windows, and made curtains to cover shelving. A piano bench from an antique store became a coffee table and decorative baskets held school supplies. We even turned a bulletin board into a “window” by having a student paint a relaxing pastoral mural on the board and hanging white shutters on each side of the “view.” It was really satisfying to hear the oohs and aahs of our surprised colleagues when they returned to school. Pattie Bailey, Reinbeck, Iowa


We live and teach on an Army base overseas, where books are not as easily accessible as in the States, so our lounge doubles as a book exchange. We bring our books in and can take, borrow, or share them with each other. Whenever we read a good book, we never miss the opportunity to make sure a colleague reads it, too. Pam Lehmann, Wiesbaden, Germany


Our teachers' lounge is incredible! Not only does it have two comfy couches with nice big blankets, it’s also equipped with a ping-pong table, a treadmill, and the sacred popcorn machine. The best part is when the teachers get together to play ping pong—WOW! You see a whole different side of people when they’re competing! It’s a place where we can go to relax and take out our frustrations—and of course, chow down on some popcorn! Ainsli Jenks,Willow  Valley Middle School, Wellsville, Utah  


We didn’t have a staff lounge until this year when a co-worker and I decided to create the perfect oasis for our large staff with a generous donation from our P.T.O. Instead of a typical elementary school lounge—no paper cutter or construction paper in sight—we’ve got a beautiful glass lunch table that comfortably seats up to eight people, a faux black leather love seat with a matching

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Need a Makeover?

Does your staff lounge have all the warmth and charm of a hospital ward? Retired teacher-turned-decorator Melinda Smaldt “knows how stressful and demanding the classroom can be,” which is why, she says, sprucing up your lounge can lift spirits and build morale. She shares cost-conscious tips for making your lounge into a “mini-vacation spot.”

Teacher LoungeThink of the functions your lounge needs to serve—eating area, workspace, sitting area—and if you’ve got the space, design a part of the room for each need.

Choose round tables for eating. They’re more conducive to conversation and collaboration. Recycle old or discarded furniture with a coat of paint or new coverings and use accessories to make the space more interesting. Pictures, plants, or baskets are easy to obtain and something staff can bring from home.

Hide clutter on shelves with curtains on tension rods or pull-down window shades. Needed items are hidden but accessible.

Soften the room’s look with fabric and area rugs. Use fabric for window treatments, throw pillows, or slipcovers—it makes the room feel less institutional.

Solicit needed items from local businesses, parents, or other staff members.