Meet Mrs. Leah Shulman, bulletin board designer extraordinaire
Mrs. Shulman is a teacher in Baltimore, but in the summer and early mornings before school starts, you can often find her with her trusty stapler and scissors in hand, working to get a bulletin board just right. These days, Mrs. Shulman is actually paid to put up bulletin boards, which is a pretty interesting job. But she had many years of experience — and scores of bulletin boards — under her belt before getting there.
Mrs. Shulman actually started designing bulletin boards back in seventh grade. In Bais Yaakov Elementary in Detroit, every girl had the opportunity to design and put up a bulletin board, rotating each month. Leah got the month of Av. She created a bulletin board based on a Yerushalayim theme and was so excited about it. But when she got to school, she saw just how large a bulletin board is (a standard board is 8 feet by 4 feet!) and the material she had prepared just didn’t fill it up. Oops! That’s what she remembers most about that first one —her material just being too small for that ginormous board.
Color War in high school brought more bulletin board design opportunities. But it wasn’t until she came back from seminary that Leah actually got paid to do them. She started her first teaching job and mentioned to the principal that she had experience with bulletin boards. Voila! A bulletin board creator was born.
The board she remembers most from that time was actually the most complicated one she ever helped make. It had six working telephones attached to it. If you picked them up, they spoke about different times in Jewish history. But the batteries died frequently, and it was hard to maintain. Many of the other boards from her “early days” were also interactive, involving riddles or parshah questions kids could answer.
After she moved to Baltimore and got married, Mrs. Shulman started working as an art teacher in the mornings, as well as an afternoon fifth-grade teacher. She mentioned to the school’s administration that she made bulletin boards. Before she knew it, she was decorating the school’s halls and classrooms.
Everything You Never Knew About Bulletin Boards
Some bulletin boards only stay up for a month or two, while others are up for entire year (like when a school has an annual theme). Some have a border or background that remains constant while the material in the middle is updated.
In a busy school hallway, a bulletin board will frequently get bumped into — and, of course, kids touch them. So, if she wants a board to really last, Mrs. Shulman will cover it with clear vinyl sheeting. And, yes, she does have to make occasional repairs.
Although many of the teachers and staff request 3D bulletin boards or interactive boards, these are usually much harder to create and maintain. Think: When stuff is jutting off the board, people bump into it. That’s just life! So, whenever possible, Mrs. Shulman goes for flat.
Creating a bulletin board involves a lot of cutting. For Mrs. Shulman, that was never a problem. She loved making art out of cut paper even as a kid. But still — all those letters. She cuts them by hand! “One of my favorite things in the world is a new pair of sharp scissors,” she says. As you might imagine, she goes through many pairs of them. In fact, she does so much cutting, her husband even gave her a pair of scissors for their anniversary!
And then Mrs. Shulman must put all those cut-out letters on the board and keep them straight and even. Putting up a single bulletin board usually takes between four and 15 hours. Yep. FIFTEEN! It makes one appreciate what goes into even “simple”-looking things, like a bulletin board.
After Mrs. Shulman is given a bulletin board “assignment,” she has to start designing it. Sometimes she’s given a specific idea or theme, a quote, or even a color. Sometimes she’s just told to create a board for springtime or a specific holiday. Other times, she’s allowed to let her imagination run wild. And sometimes she’s asked to leave a board mostly blank so that kids can add work they’ve done or creations they’ve made. These boards are complete even when they look empty; that’s because they’re waiting to be filled. Whatever the assignment, Mrs. Shulman enjoys doing it!
Once she plans out what she wants to do, she prints whatever pictures, words, or individual letters that she needs on the school printer. And then the cutting begins… Looking at the pictures, you’d never be able to tell that Mrs. Shulman actually cut out each letter by hand. (No Cricut or other machines for her!) Then, before putting anything up, Mrs. Shulman must cover the board. For the background, Mrs. Shulman uses roll paper, which can be pinned or stapled on.
Next, she begins putting the words and pictures on. This is a painstaking process, because it’s quite difficult to keep all the words straight and the letters evenly spaced and nicely aligned, and it could mean redoing a board several times until it’s right. Mrs. Shulman first pins everything to the board, and only when she’s satisfied with its appearance does she begin stapling it down. Some bulletin boards she’s made have used thousands of staples. Whew!’
Aside from paper, Mrs. Shulman sometimes uses fabric and magazine cut-outs (Mishpacha, of course!) as embellishments, in addition to things kids might contribute (like photos or drawings), if that’s the purpose of the board. Sometimes Mrs. Shulman has to call one of the maintenance staff to come and do some drilling for her, too.
What’s the hardest part of putting up a bulletin board? Not all the cutting, believe it or not. Not even when a teacher gives her a quote that’s way too wordy. (Mrs. Shulman tries to edit those down or reword them to make them shorter.)
So, when does the going get tough? “I’ll put a board up and step back, and I’ll see that it’s not even. Then I have to redo or adjust it,” Mrs. Shulman says. She’s adjusted boards more times than she can count. “I do try to make the bulletin boards as perfect as possible,” she adds. “Even when I know it’s coming down soon.” It sounds like there’s some kind of life lesson in there, doesn’t it?
Mrs. Shulman’s Bulletin Boards, By the Number
Average number of staples used in a single bulletin board
Number of bulletin boards created
Longest time spent putting up a board, in hours
Length of longest board she’s created, in feet
Length of smallest board she’s created, in feet
Fastest time putting up a board, in hours
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 874)
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