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Members of a Portsmouth leadership program worked in the teachers lounge of Waters Middle School, building custom cabinets and putting up a mobile.

By the time they were done, the space had been transformed – new armchairs, tables, art, fridge, countertops, and two microwaves.

This weekend, the Lefcoe leadership class in Portsmouth renovated each teachers’ lounge of the city’s three middle schools. The class decided on a project to address teachers’ needs following the January shooting at Richneck Elementary in Newport News.

“It was kind of fresh on everybody's minds when we started the class,” said Kitty Bryant, a member of the Lefcoe class.

(Image: Dakota Anderson)

Kitty Bryant adds trim to a mirror in the teachers' lounge of Waters Middle School in Portsmouth.

The teachers’ lounge at Waters was hardly used.

“There was just no place for teachers to sit down, eat their lunch in a bright, cheery space that was something different than their classroom,” Bryant said.

Teachers told Lefcoe members the lounges weren’t calming, and weren’t versatile enough to them to get much use from them.

A state audit in 2022 found 10,900 teachers left before the fall semester started. 15% said they were definitely leaving or likely to leave at the end of the year – compared with just 9% in 2019. 

(Image: Laura Philion.)

Lefcoe leadership class member Bruce Bangley drills holes to anchor a workspace in the Waters teachers' lounge.

Dakota Anderson, another member of the Portsmouth leadership class, asked local teachers what they needed most to plan the lounge makeovers. 

“Some said ‘I need to pull out a laptop to do a virtual class.’ So we took that into consideration,” he said. “So if they want to eat food or eat lunch, or if they need to pull out and grade some papers, they can do that.”

Bryant said each of her classmates had different expertise to add.

“I would never be able to build cabinets, but it's wonderful that Steven and Bruce can do it,” she said.

The class raised over $7,000 for the renovation, and a local artist donated an origami-style mobile to hang from the ceiling of the lounge.