Teachers stock classrooms, prepare for students' return

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

As students shop for school supplies, teachers also ready their rooms for a new school year.

Teachers typically come back before students to clean out their rooms and get an idea of what they'll need for the new year.

"I started coming in early July this year and a lot of my preparation was organizing," said second-grade Lake Elementary Teacher Jessica O'Donnell.

The Mentor School District building had several teachers in and out, preparing for the first day.

Jilleena Andrews, another second-grade teacher at the school, said she spent a lot of time creating new activities for the kids to "make it fresh and exciting for them."

In addition to the prep work, teachers are also spending their own money on supplies for their students.

That particular school's PTA has a program that reimburses teachers up to $100 for the expenditures, and Principal Mike Lynch also works with the budget to allow $200 to be spent on supplies out of district funds per grade level.

"I added to my classroom library this year. We purchase extra notebooks and folders for activities," O'Donnell said.

She anticipates that the average amount spent by teachers each year is between $500 to $1,000. So far, she has spent about $400 for her classroom.

Lynch said he knows teachers who will spend much more to ready their classrooms.

"I know teachers that spend thousands of dollars. I think if you kept really close track of what teachers spend, they spend a great deal of money on their students and on the materials just to try to enhance their classroom and enhance the materials that their kids have," he said.

That's the reason he sets aside a small portion of the budget to provide the $200 to be split among teachers at each grade level, but the majority is still coming from the teachers themselves.

"The teachers, I believe, know what they need the best," he said.

"We do want parents to know how much we care and that it's important to us to make (this) year better than last year," Andrews said.

The Parent Teacher Organization for Kenston School District in Bainbridge Township also lends a hand to its teachers.

Marybeth Reeb, a fourth-grade teacher at Kenston Intermediate School, said the district assists with funds for classroom supplies, too, but because of tightened budgets over the past five years, the amount has been scaled back.

This summer, Reeb spent about $300 of her own for additional supplies.

Among items purchased while shopping at Target were dozens of folders for children who may need them.

She also bought a new rug and chairs to contribute to a comfortable atmosphere in her classroom.

"You want it to look homey and feel homey," she said.

"(Teachers) also spend a lot of time here. It's a matter of comfort for students and us."

Spending her own out-of-pocket money to buy resources for students who lack them is something Kelly Drinkwater has done for several years.

Drinkwater, who teaches first grade at St. John of the Cross School in Euclid, said having the proper supplies lends to good self-esteem, which in turn aids in learning.

"I go out and spend my own money because I want the kids to feel equal to the other kids," she said.

Another instance where she dips into her own funds for supplies is at the introduction of a new project during the school year.

If the educational endeavor proves to be beneficial and she chooses to continue it for future classes, needed items are then added to following years' supply lists.

Referring to parents who take issue with what may seem to be a long list of supplies to purchase, the educator says, "I don't think they realize (school) is almost like a home away from home and so really what I see is we're not just asking for this, but there's a purpose to benefit their child."

Over the years, she also has encountered generous parents who bring in new supplies just for other children who may need them.