During the last year and a half, teachers across the country opened up their homes to their students by way of their computer screens in order to keep our children feeling supported both academically and often emotionally. With that in mind, MADAMENORE spoke with actress Garcelle Beauvais about her partnership with HomeGoods to uplift the teachers of Miami’s Benjamin Franklin K-8 Center. The initiative is to help teachers across the country “reclaim their spaces at home” which were turned into virtual classrooms this past year. One hundred lucky winners will be awarded $1,000 to spend transforming their space. Winners will also receive a “30-minute virtual design consultation” to help bring their vision to life. Anyone can nominate their favorite teacher for a chance to win between August 3-10.
The Real co-host and RHOBH star discusses how she used her love of interior design to redecorate the Benjamin Franklin K-8 Center teacher’s lounge, and how she’s been helping her 13-year-old twin boys navigate their experience learning from home.
MADAMENOIRE: So for our readers who might not know, you were born in Haiti and lived there as a child before your family ended up moving to the States. In the video detailing how your partnership with HomeGoods went down, it describes you as a “Miami native.” Can you tell us about your roots in the city?
Garcelle Beauvais: We moved from Massachusetts to Miami when I was sixteen and a half. It really is home, that’s where my mom lived, that’s where my sisters and nieces and nephews live. One of my sisters is a vice principal in a school in Miami and there’s a huge Haitian community there so of course that makes me feel even more at home too.
When HomeGoods — who I love by the way — when they wanted to give back to the teachers there it just made sense. We chose the Benjamin Franklin K-8 Center, where most of the population of the student body are Haitian kids. That was also special.
As a mom, you know — this past year and a half has been tough on everybody with the homeschooling. Tough for the parents, tough for the kids, tough for the teachers who have to get the kids engaged through the little box of their computers.
HomeGoods and I wanted to say thank you to them. Not only do they educate our children, but they also inspire our children.
I was inspired to dream big when I moved to America from Haiti. I didn’t know how to speak English, I couldn’t go to school right away. I learned English watching Sesame Street but teachers became a huge part of who I am. Why not say thank you and really give them the credit and the respect they deserve?
MN: You have two young twin boys — Jax and Jaid — who we assume had to deal with the struggles of online learning like you mentioned. How’s their experience been with virtual learning over the past year and a half?
Beauvais: It’s been tough. It’s been tough to get them to wake up in the morning, get dressed, be presentable in front of their computers, all of that.
Their school wants them to wear their uniform tops which I thought was kinda silly at first, but then it made sense. It’s sort of like their putting on their “school hat” — like if you’re going to work and you’re putting on your “work hat.” It was helpful, but it was still hard to get them to engage, to make sure they turned in their assignments, that the teachers got them through email…. It was a challenge for everybody and I felt bad for the kids in general since they were missing out on hanging out with their friends, playing sports — just interacting with their teachers and being able to just physically be in front of them.
It was tough for everybody, but we got through it.
MN: Despite the challenges, we’re happy to hear you and your boys have been pushing through. You mentioned them missing out on being physically in front of their teachers towards the end there and I know a lot of students and teachers will be returning back to in-person learning this fall.
How did it go designing the teacher’s lounge for the educators at the Benjamin Franklin K-8 Center? How involved in the process were you and why was it important to make it welcoming for them?
Beauvais: Listen, you couldn’t stop me from being involved — this is what I love!
I love home decor so the project was right in my wheelhouse. I got to see pictures of the teacher’s lounge before I started on the project and there was no color, it was really bland — it wasn’t a room that you would want to be in or feel inspired in.
What HomeGoods did is they sent me tons of pictures. I approved furniture, designs, wallpaper, colors, all of that. I was very hands-on and then I got to go to Miami and put it all together.
Let me tell you, even though I knew what we were going to do, it was another thing to actually see the room once we were done. It came to life. The colors, the wallpapers, the furniture, the pillows, the plants. It was really fantastic. And then to see the teachers and the principal walk in the room and just light up — they were speechless. It really made you feel like they understood the gratitude that was coming from me and HomeGoods through our way of saying thank you to them for what they do.
MN: We totally agree, that moment comes across in the video. You can also really pick up on the vibe you guys created for them in the teacher’s lounge, in terms of its aesthetic. How would describe the design style you and HomeGoods went with?
Beauvais: Well, we wanted it to feel warm in the teacher’s lounge, that’s important. We wanted it to feel warm and inviting and I love a lot of tropical flare. We got to do lots of rattan pieces, some really colorful art… obviously, we added colors on the walls. We even did colors on the cabinets in the kitchen area and got to do a beautiful, floral, palm wallpaper inside of them.
Everything was really purposeful to invite joy and inspiration.
We even did a gratitude jar where the teachers can pull out a quote on a daily basis to uplift and help inspire them so they can walk into the classroom and pay it forward.