DENVER - If you’re lucky enough to get CailinAnne Johnson as your teacher, she’s going to make sure you have everything you need to succeed in her class, even if she has to buy it herself.
“If that means I need to provide them with pens, pencils, scissors, a backpack, a charger for their computer I want to be able to do that so they feel like no matter what they can come, especially inside my classroom,” said Johnson.
Most of the time that means it’s coming out of her pocket.
“My first year of teaching was 2017, and by the end of the year I had spent $2,000 of my own money to provide resources for my students,” said Johnson.
She has a big heart, but her wallet might not be big enough to keep up. She is far from the only one who does this. She’s not even the only teacher at North High School in Denver who does this.
“Maybe one thousand dollars per school year,” said Victoria Filbrandt, a science teacher who works across the building from Johnson.
“It’s $50 to $100 each month and then adding up over time,” said Filbrandt
Teachers paying out of pocket for classroom supplies is not new, but teachers are finding new approaches to help offset the cost.
Johnson used a website adoptaclassroom.org to raise close to $700 for her class. Anyone can go on the website and donate money to teachers so they can buy supplies their students need. That can make a big difference for teachers across the country. According to the National Center of Education Statistics, on average teachers spend about $450 of their own money on supplies for their classroom every year.
“I fundraise for simple things like color pencils, scissors to make sure students have enough,” said Johnson.
But she doesn’t stop with the basics.
“We were able to get a workstation bike, which was really cool, for our antsy students, who sitting in a chair for 15 minutes is just not going to work for them,” said Johnson.
A stationary bike that students can ride and do their work at the same time. Another example of new solutions fixing old problems.
And adopt a classroom isn’t the only place teachers are turning to, it’s just part of the movement.
“#ClearTheList is a pay it forward initiative where teachers give to other teachers, donors give teachers,” said Courtney Jones.
Jones took matters into her own hands this summer when she was getting ready to head back to school. She made a wish list on amazon and shared it on twitter with the hashtag #ClearTheList. Then anyone can go online and buy an item for these teachers.
“It’s not just resources, but it’s food and hygiene items and resource books for myself to learn how to teach better it’s all these components,”
She says more than 200,000 teachers have participated on social media. These types of ideas have made a huge difference to teachers all over the country.
“Feeling them expressing the warmth of this classroom and the hands on experience they get to do has been, you know, not only nice on my bank account but also on their academic experience,” said Filbrandt
“So figuring out how am I going to afford resources for my classroom to make sure my students can feel successful versus how much is going to my rent, my car payment things like that, it’s really tricky,” said Johnson.
But Jones says she didn’t start clear the list so Johnson could buy colored pencils and Filbrandt could buy supplies for a physics lab. She says she wants people to start talking about how teachers don’t have what they need to do their job.
“It’s a way to yes get items and resources for your classrooms and students but more importantly it’s a way to start a conversation about the ridiculousness of not having resources,” said Jones.
She also says, while it might be top of mind to help out a teacher when it’s back to school season, these teachers have to buy supplies all year long.
“I’m going to be using the last $300 as we’re winding down getting closer to finals, because that’s definitely when things go missing or people don’t have it,” said Johnson.
So these teachers are finding new ways to attack old problems, but one thing they say will remain the same is their dedication to their students.
“I like teaching. It’s fun. The very good days outweigh the very bad... I love seeing students succeed,” said Filbrandt.
“The thank you letters I get, the everybody knows who Ms. Johnson is, oh yeah Ms. Johnson, makes my life so much better, because when I look at my own high school experience I truly just want to be the person that I never had,” said Johnson.