Creating a Modern Space Where Teachers and Staff Eat, Relax and Socialize

Creating a Modern Space Where Teachers and Staff Eat, Relax and Socialize

Since 2007, Atlantic County Institute of Technology (ACIT) in Mays Landing, N.J., has been providing a comprehensive high school education that incorporates all academic courses, advanced placement (AP) courses and vocational-technical opportunities.

Serving about 1,700 students—a number that will soon increase to 2,000—the school can boast that many of its graduating seniors go on to attend the nation’s top colleges and Ivy League universities. Other graduates go directly into the workforce, where they launch their careers well prepared for what lies ahead of them, thanks to the school’s 17 different program offerings.

“We have it all here,” said Principal Joe Potkay. With a $54 million school expansion project currently underway, ACIT will soon add new opportunities like welding to its lineup. In its quest to prepare the future workforce for success, the school is also expanding its health sciences and aviation maintenance programs.

Wanted: A Space for Teachers

Knowing that teachers play a crucial role in students’ educational and long-term success, ACIT also puts an emphasis on keeping instructors engaged, comfortable and happy in their positions. Last year, the school remodeled its teachers’ lounge, which—due to some classroom space constraints—doubles as both a dining space and a place to use school computers for planning, lesson development, and other prep work.

Previously, the lounge was outfitted with six-foot-long tables, regular chairs and linoleum flooring. “We wanted to update the lounge for teachers and to make the space more inviting for them,” said Potkay. “It needed to be more of a place where they could come to sit back and relax.”

With ample physical space to work with, MiEN was called upon—through a referral from Emerald Business Supply —to help ACIT create a more relaxing, inviting space for teachers. The modern teachers’ lounge had to be functional enough for teachers who came in to write their lesson plans but comfortable enough for those who wanted a brief respite for lunch or a snack.

MiEN provided an array of different table, seating, and color palette choices for ACIT to select from. After deciding on the best combination, the school carved out a couple of months for the installation process. “We did the installation over a school break so that teachers wouldn’t be without a lounge while school was in session,” Potkay said.

Teachers love their new space, which is also used by the school’s custodial and maintenance staff. “The seating is so comfortable and versatile that some people even lie down and rest on it in between classes or tasks,” said Potkay. “So far, all of the feedback has been very positive.”

ACIT modern Teacher lounge
ACIT modern Teacher lounge
ACIT modern Teacher lounge

Creating a Versatile Space

To other schools that want to modernize their teachers’ lounges, Potkay said creating a multipurpose space is a great approach. “Some teachers don’t even eat lunch, so avoid limiting the space to dining,” he advised. “Some staff members just want to go in there and have a place for a workstation, so make the space versatile.”

Potkay credits MiEN with presenting a variety of furniture types that helped lay the foundation for a very modern, flexible and inviting space for teachers. The furniture is extremely functional and includes power stations for computers and devices, making the lounge the perfect place to hold professional development sessions and other events.

Up next, ACIT plans to build a similar modern teachers’ lounge for the three new buildings that it’s currently working on. “We’re going to make it the same way, because you need a dedicated location for teachers to eat, socialize and congregate,” said Potkay. “Some teachers don’t want to eat in their classrooms, so they like their lounge for the social aspect of it.”

A Safe Space for Teachers

Potkay said ACIT’s new modern teachers’ lounge serves as a “safe place” where teachers can go to unwind and discuss what’s happening at school and in their personal lives.

“Teachers need to vent and support one another,” said Potkay. “At this point in the post-COVID environment, any common space where they feel like they’re allowed to be with their peers is very be beneficial to their mental wellbeing.”

ACIT modern Teacher lounge