Want to Help Teachers With Their Classroom Supplies? Here’s What You Can Do

Andrea wolf helps sort through donated back to school supplies on a school bus.
Andrea Wolf, an employee at Jabil, helps sort through donated school supplies during a "Stuff the Bus" back- to-school supply drive for Pinellas County schools in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Monday, Aug. 7, 2017. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

You know those personal questions that websites ask when you sign up for an account so they can verify your identity if you ever need to make changes?

Some ask for the name of your pet or the town where you were born, but one of the most common questions is, “What is the name of your favorite teacher?” It’s a popular question because teachers make a dramatic impact on the lives of so many people.

One of my teachers sent an essay I wrote to the principal’s office for publication in the school paper. The rest, as they say, is history, since I now make my living as a writer.

Teachers are straight-up awesome. Unfortunately their classroom supply budgets are not.

Rather than let their students go without basics like pencils and notebook paper, many teachers spend their own money on school supplies for their classrooms.

That would be considered a sweet gesture if teachers were trillionaires, but the reality is the average salary for kindergarten, elementary and high school teachers is only $56,747. Most teacher salaries are significantly lower.

“I make a little bit under $35,000 a year, and that’s before taxes and insurance and stuff, and then I spend about two grand a year on my classroom just to make my kids successful,” Oklahoma public school teacher Teresa Danks told NPR.

That kind of spending was unsustainable for Danks, so she eventually began panhandling to raise money for school supplies.

Teachers aren’t just awesome. They are downright selfless.

4 Ways to Donate School Supplies

Bookbags and notebooks that were donated through the Stuff the Bus Back to School Supply Drive for Pinellas County in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Donated school supplies are pictured during a “Stuff the Bus” back-to-school supply drive for Pinellas county schools. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

Want to help teachers defray the cost of classroom supplies? Here are a few options.

1. If you have a few dollars to spare, consider supporting a classroom through DonorsChoose.org.

Some project donations go toward basic necessities like chairs while others help fund technology purchases to enhance learning in the classroom.

You can select where your donation money goes based on subject, age group, resource-type and more. Some projects need as little as $28 to meet their goal.

2. Organize a back-to-school donation drive with this free toolkit. The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department collected nearly 1,000 items during a recent donation drive, including pencils, backpacks, markers and scissors.

3. Shop for your kids’ school supplies at retailers running buy-one-get-one-free sales, then donate the free items to their school.

4. If you’ve already earmarked money for your family’s school supplies, try these money-saving tips to come in under budget. Use the leftover cash to buy extra supplies to donate.

Lisa McGreevy is a staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. She still misses her Trapper Keeper and troll doll pencil topper.