By Adam Bexten
In the midst of teacher strikes and national debate over the lack of resources supplied to educators, a teacher from Texas decided to take immediate action. And her action has spread online like wildfire, even reaching educators in Missouri.
“I wanted a place for teachers to be able to support each other in the era that we seem to be undervalued,” Courtney Jones said.
Jones, an elementary teacher in southeast Texas, started the Support A Teacher and Clear the List movement by creating a Facebook group at the beginning of July, encouraging teachers to post Amazon Wish Lists of supplies they needed for the school year for other teachers and the public to gift them. Jones estimates that the movement has already reached 200,000 teachers nationwide.
“I am overwhelmed by the support, but not too surprised. Educators need to be valued and respected in our communities and financially,” Jones said. “Without adequate resources for ourselves and students, we get stuck in artificial boxes that are difficult to escape. But, together, as in this movement, we can truly impact public opinion and respect for the profession.”
Initially, the group’s focus began as a place for teachers to help other teachers, but the movement has since caught the attention of the public and now serves the dual purpose of fulfilling wish lists while also highlighting lackluster educational funding policies around the country. Common items that appear across multiple teacher wish lists include novels, educational games, workbooks and crafting supplies.
Today, the movement has grown to more than 50 localized Facebook groups plus new Twitter and Instagram accounts popping up every day. A group specific to the Midwest had nearly 7,000 members in early August.
MSTA member Kati Schlosser, a first-year teacher at Leopold R-3 found out about a Missouri-specific Support a Teacher page from a friend already active in it.
“When I first joined, I was just an observer for the first couple of days trying to figure it all out. But then I shared my list and I received two gifts within a week of sharing,” Schlosser said. “I was ecstatic, I couldn’t believe it was real. I immediately gifted them back and sent my thanks. I then went in search of someone to gift, I immediately felt so much joy in helping out other teachers so I continued to gift and I love it!”
And in southeast Missouri, teachers at rival schools Cape Girardeau and Jackson are using #CleartheList to help each other with supplies, regardless of loyalty.
A 2018 study by the National Center of Education estimated that teachers spend nearly $480 per year on school supplies for their classrooms, far more than the $250 federal tax deduction available to educators.
“I was surprised when I first started school and started talking to teachers and found out how much they spend. I know my family is surprised by how much I’ve already spent for my first year,” said Schlosser.
MSTA’s 2019 State of the Education Profession survey found that more than six out of 10 Missouri teachers have seriously considered leaving the profession in the last three years, citing inadequate pay as one of the biggest deterrent to the profession.
Jones understands this concern. “I’ve said from the beginning that this should never even be a trend or movement,” she said. “But, it’s time we took a stand and raised our voices collectively, across the nation, to state our issues and what we need.”