Educators’ Express new lifeline for teachers
By Maggie Blackwell
Teachers overwhelmingly supported County Commissioners diverting school supply money to preserve positions in the school system, according to a survey taken by an education advocacy group ó positions that would otherwise be cut by the state.
Now that it’s reallocated, however, there’s no money for classroom supplies.
That’s why Educators’ Express is now a lifeline for teachers.
Established last year by the Rowan Partners for Education, Educators’ Express is a clearinghouse of sorts for classroom supplies. Items are donated by businesses, families and churches and are made available to all teachers in the Rowan-Salisbury County School System ó for free.
Rowan Partners for Education board member Liz Tennent reflected on the events of the past few days.
“So many teachers were willing to sacrifice their stipends for their fellow professionals. Now we hope to reward their sacrifice with the supplies they need for our students.”
It’s modeled after Classroom Central, a similar program in Charlotte. With a seven-year head start on Educators’ Express, it offers much more, has more donors and serves more teachers ó hence, more students.
Louise Wooten, the executive director for Rowan Partners for Education, is clearly proud of the program. She gives a tour of the facility, housed for the time being in a mobile unit at East Rowan High School, excitedly showing donations: copy paper, seashells, posters, pencil sharpeners.
Many teachers have a treasure box in their classrooms, allowing students to pick a prize when they reach a goal. Treasure boxes might include tiny toy cars, plastic jewelry or a sheet of stickers. Wooten has a special shelf just for such items.
Wooten explains how unusual things can be used. Surplus printed posters from Wachovia Bank, used for an internal promotion, are perfectly good posterboard on the back. Carbonless paper, the kind that makes an impression when written on, is a gold mine for the classroom. The teacher simply asks a student to take notes on the first copy ó saving the second copy for an absent student. Or she writes a note to a parent and keeps the copy for her own records.
When Wooten received a box of seashells, she thought she had finally received something a teacher couldn’t use. The very next day, a teacher came in, delighted. “We’re studying ocean life! Now I can give a shell to each student!”
As a result, Wooten welcomes all new and gently-used donations. “Even if you can’t imagine a use for it, if it’s good quality, please donate it.” The only items she politely declines are seasonal decorations; she doesn’t have the room to store them.
Wooten is thankful for the many partners in the project. She proudly points out donations from Office Depot. The local store gives items and also gives discounts on items she purchases with cash donations. She recognizes Rowan-Salisbury Schools for providing both the mobile unit and offsite storage. She is thankful for her volunteers, who sort, inventory and document the donations, and for those who “man the store,” helping teachers and overseeing the shop.
But they need more.
Last year Educators’ Express served about 200 teachers, allowing each one to shop three times a year ó fall, winter and spring.
This year, in light of the shortage in supply money, she anticipates serving most of the 2,000-plus teachers in the system.
If school started today, however, Wooten could serve about 1 in 10 teachers with the supplies she has on hand.
In addition to the unusual items like seashells or gently-used children’s books, she needs high-demand items like notebook paper, spiral notebooks, pencils, colored pencils, Post-it notes, tissues and adult scissors. Dry-erase products are hot items, too: erasers, markers, and cleaner. Many of these items are available at the dollar store or can be bought on sale at back-to-school time.
“Yet, if we have all the supplies we can hold, and not enough volunteers, we can’t serve the teachers,” she notes. Volunteers can work as little as one three-hour shift a month, assisting teachers in selecting their items. The building is secure, in a safe environment and volunteers are trained in the few rules and procedures.
School superintendent Dr. Judy Grissom fully supports the program, saying, “The Rowan-Salisbury School System staff commends the efforts by the Rowan Partners in Education in establishing the Educators’ Express for our teachers. Many teachers spend a large portion of their own paychecks to buy additional materials for their classrooms. With the state and local budget cuts and the economic climate, any assistance that can be provided to meet the needs of our students is appreciated.”
Rowan Partners for Education Educators’ Express is open for teachers on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays during the school year, from 2:30 to 5 p.m. Teachers must make an appointment to shop via an online form.
For more information or to contact Wooten to help, visit http://www.educaterowan.org. Click on the picture of the train to link to Educators’ Express.
How you can help
– Volunteer as little as three hours a month.
– Encourage your employees to volunteer.
– Donate surplus items from your business.
– Donate new school supplies.
– Donate new or gently used items for “treasure boxes.”
– Donate gently used children’s books.
– Make a cash contribution.