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Penn Hills

Teachers praise 'flexible seating' in two Penn Hills classrooms

Michael DiVittorio
| Tuesday, April 10, 2018, 5:15 p.m.
Penn Hills Elementary kindergarteners Ahja Barron, 6, and Olivia Jagger, 5, sit on superhero stools as part of a new flexible seating method introduced this school year.
Michael DiVittorio | Tribune-Review
Penn Hills Elementary kindergarteners Ahja Barron, 6, and Olivia Jagger, 5, sit on superhero stools as part of a new flexible seating method introduced this school year.
Penn Hills second grader Jacoury Parks, 7, gives a thumbs up as he and his classmates pick their chairs as part of a flexible seating initiative.
Michael DiVittorio | Tribune-Review
Penn Hills second grader Jacoury Parks, 7, gives a thumbs up as he and his classmates pick their chairs as part of a flexible seating initiative.

There are no assigned desks or seating charts in the classrooms of Penn Hills elementary teachers Amy Yohe and Julie Erdelyi.

Kids sit on yoga mats, fitness balls, pillows, stools or bean bags in front of tables large and small. Or they can stand at a plastic elevated work station if they choose. It is all up to them.

"It gives them ownership," Yohe said about flexible seating used in her kindergarten class. "They make friends quicker, because they get to pick their seats daily. There's less conflict. Some pick the same seats. Others are different every day."

Yohe has been a teacher for 25 years and Erdelyi, who teaches second grade and is in her 16th year in the classroom, are both trying the flexible seating experiment for the first time. It is a growing trend regionally and across the country - and not without its skeptics and detractors - but both of the Penn Hills teachers have found nothing but benefits since starting to use flexible seating.

"We really have found this to be very beneficial to our students," Erdelyi said. "It helps them focus. I've noticed that my students have done a lot better with their work because they're able to be independent ... they're comfortable."

Principal Kristin Brown commended the teachers' initiative.

"We encourage teachers to try new ideas and think outside the box to support student achievement," Brown said.

Erdelyi used crowdfunding to get donations for mats, wobble stools, cushions and bungee desks, which have straps at the bottom to hold the feet of students when they sit. Yohe got creative and made superhero stools out of kitty litter containers and fabric.

Students in both classrooms liked the choices each teacher provided to them.

"The reason why I like the seats is we can pick whatever seats we want and wherever we sit," kindergartner Maddox Wetmore said.

When second-grader Mariah Neal, 7, talked about flexible seating, you could hear the enthusiasm in her voice.

"I'm not the kind of person who just does one thing and stays in one place and does only one thing one day. I like to do lots of stuff. I'm an adventurer," she said. "I like to use these chairs because I like to explore."

Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-871-2367, mdivittorio@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MikeJdiVittorio.

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