Insights with Brittany Jeltema on creating an inclusive classroom
In our latest Insights Series, we spoke to Brittany Jeltema, who is a mother of two, teacher, classroom designer and advocate for the LGBTQ+ community, about her thoughts on motherhood and creating a more inclusive classroom.
What steps and strategies do you take to create a safe and inclusive space for every student?
When I create teaching curriculum and classroom decor, students and teachers are always at the forefront of my designs. Personally, I know what it's like to feel like you're completely alone in your identity because of lack of representation, which is why I always do my best to include representation of all different types of people. Every student deserves to see themselves in a book, in their classroom design or in the curriculum, and it's my mission to make sure they do!
When you’re designing curriculum, how do you incorporate inclusivity and acceptance into the messaging?
Curriculum design is so powerful because it gives educators the opportunity to not only include representation of each student they have, but it also allows other students to see different perspectives, too! I see my work as a chance to make each student and teacher who uses it feel seen and valued, whether it's through a word problem using non-binary pronouns, a novel unit featuring LGBTQ+ characters, or a biography project featuring inspirational figures from all walks of life. The possibilities are endless!
Your classroom makeovers are absolutely stunning. Take us through your normal process when redesigning a classroom.
Thank you! First, I work directly with the teacher (and sometimes the students, too) in order to determine what they need and want in their space. Once my team and I determine the teacher's vision, we develop a theme and plan out the layout months before going to the school for the flip. Once the planning is done, we head to the school and flip the classroom in 48 hours. We change everything from flooring to decor. It's a wild and fast-paced process, but it always comes together in the end. My favorite part is the reveal, though. I love seeing the teacher's reaction to their new classroom, and how many students' lives it will touch!
You have a beautiful family. Tell us a little about what motherhood has meant to you.
Motherhood has been incredibly empowering. Sometimes, I still can't believe that I have 2 babies! My wife and I had to take a non-traditional route to create our little family, but it was worth every step. At first, it was extremely overwhelming, but now that I'm feeling more confident in my role as a parent, I'm obsessed with being a mom! It truly is the best thing I've done in life. Although parenting is not easy, it's so rewarding, and we love representing LGBTQ+ families.
What does LGBTQ+ advocacy in the classroom mean to you?
I know this may seem like an exaggeration, but LGBTQ+ advocacy in the classroom means everything to me. I've seen so many teachers, students, and peers struggle to feel accepted because of a lack of representation and bills that silence people in the LGBTQ+ community. I see it as my responsibility to be a voice for them. I have a large platform, and I use it to proudly advocate for people in my community who are being discriminated against. When a student enters a classroom, they should feel like they're in a safe space. Educators can create a safe space for their students through their actions, curriculum, classroom library, classroom decor, and so much more, which is why I design curriculum and decor that is inclusive of all students.
Brittany Jeltema is a teacher, mother of two, classroom and curriculum designer, as well as an active LGBTQ+ advocate. You can learn more about her by following her business (@visionaryclassroomdecor) or her personal Instagram account (@thesuperheroteacher).
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