Teachers: We need supplies

Published 1:12 am Wednesday, July 31, 2013

“Donations would be greatly appreciated” is what the header says over the list of items like paper towels, Kleenex, hand sanitizer and the like.

Area teachers agreed Tuesday what the header should say is, “We desperately need those items,” and to make sure their classroom is stocked, many are paying hundreds of dollars out-of-pocket each year.

“Educators, like the majority of the workforce, have felt the pinch of the sluggish economy,” said Fleeta Jr. High School Principal Randy McGlaun. “More and more we depend on parents, PTO members, volunteers and area businesses to help our schools. The investment that our stakeholders contribute goes much further than money, however. It’s a personal investment in our students’ future. Fortunately, we live in an area of the world where generosity is the norm, not the exception.”

The state department of education gives teachers a $300 instructional material allocation, but that doesn’t go far, teachers agreed.

One teacher, who asked not to be named, said that people would be “shocked” to learn how much personal money teachers spend on student classroom supplies each year.

“I’ve been teaching 35 years, and if I could get back all the money I’ve spent on my students, I could afford a house on the beach,” she said jokingly. “Personally, I spend money on all basic supplies for kids who can’t afford them. I have even paid for students’ admission charges to go on field trips because their parents couldn’t afford the money for them to go.”

Educators said they want parents to understand why the donations are so important in the classroom. Beth Weed has taught third grade at Andalusia Elementary School for 21 years and been a parent for 13 of those years. She said she is always amazed at the generosity of the parents and community members when it comes to the needs of children.

“First of all, (teachers) are happy if you send any school supplies,” Weed said. “Teachers understand that many parents can’t afford to send their child to school with any supplies much less donate items from the ‘optional list.’

“We appreciate any donation we receive,” she said. “ Teachers work to make sure a box of crayons or a bottle of Germ-Ex doesn’t make or break a child’s education. Teachers must ask for optional donation items to provide a safe and happy school environment for all students.”

Nancy Blanton Wilson, an Andalusia Middle School teacher, said last year she spent close to $75 of supply money on Clorox wipes, Lysol and Germ-X alone.

“Instructional money should be used on resource materials and technology,” Wilson said. “This did not include what I spent of my own personal money. That would be too depressing to keep track or, so yes, the importance of the donation items is vital.”

The supply list explained

Parents know that school supplies are cheaper during the “back to school” month, which makes it a prime time to stock up supplies.

“That $0.40 box of crayons turns into a $1.40 box in December,” Weed said. “Parents can buy four boxes of crayons at the beginning of school for less than one will cost later. That four boxes equals one box per grading period.

“Teachers ask for composition notebook instead of spiral as a safety precaution so someone doesn’t get injured with a wire,” she said. “Composition notebooks also last the entire school year and don’t fall apart. Plastic bags are cheaper than pencil boxes and conform to the desks. These are used to house scissors, pencils and crayons.”

But why paper towels, Kleenex and hand sanitizer?

“We can sum it up in just one word – cleanliness,” Weed said. “Students deserve to have the things that they need to stay well. Germs spread quickly in a school environment. All school faculty and staff work to keep down the spread of germs, and hand sanitizer, tissues, and paper towels help do this.

“We use the school provided ‘brown towels’ when washing hands at least four times a day – that’s 80 paper towels daily for 20 students – however, there are many times we’ve had to clean up sickness or cover it up so that these germs aren’t airborne,” she said. “The brown towels aren’t large or sturdy enough to cover or clean sickness from someone’s shoes. That’s why we need paper towels.”

Andalusia Middle School librarian Kay Fagerstrom said if these items are not donated, then teachers have to purchase them with our personal money.

“Last year, the state did give teachers some supply money – the first time in several years – but I used that money to purchase books and other teaching materials,” she confessed – and one wouldn’t expect anything different from a librarian.