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Coastal Bend teachers turning to Amazon to help stock classrooms

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Posted at 6:32 PM, Jul 12, 2023
and last updated 2023-07-12 19:52:02-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Ahead of the new school year, teachers are turning to new technology to help them stock up on classroom essentials.

The Amazon Teacher Wish List feature on the online retailer's website has been growing in popularity among educators. The tool allows them to create and share a list of items they want or need for kiddos in their classroom.

This upcoming school year, Jennifer Poimboeuf will start teaching the Fifth Grade in the Corpus Christi School District (CCISD). Her wish list includes various items, from storage baskets to pencils to decorative lights and frames.

She said it's important for her students to have what they need to learn while making them feel like they're at home is also a priority.

"When you think about the kiddos walking into a classroom, they want to feel safe, they want to feel like they're in a cool place where they will enjoy the rest of the school year." she explained. "That first day, meet the teacher, first day of school, it is really intimidating for kiddos especially the little ones."

Poimboeuf started her teaching career in 2021 and was immediately hit with several price tags.

Like a majority of public school educators, Poimboeuf has to use her own money to provide a majority of supplies in her classroom.

According to a survey by the National Center for Education Statistics, 94% of teachers spend their own money to stock their classrooms with the necessary supplies and resources. On average, a teacher will shell out about $479, although 7% spent more than $1,000, according to the survey.

"We're talking about paper, pencil, folders, glue, that's all stuff that comes out of our pockets depending on where you teach at." Poimboeuf said. "If I relied on the materials students bring in just off the school supply list, I would run out of supplies probably by the middle of the year."

Before she discovered Amazon's tool, the Poimboeuf said she was lucky that other teachers were generous. She was able to fill a portion of her classroom necessities with used items gifted by others.

The rising costs of materials and items have been making it difficult for many people, including teachers, to keep up.

"I have a young child and we're trying to get on our feet and get a house and things like that and it's hard to fit that into our budget, fit in stocking a classroom on top of getting my own child prepared for school." Poimboeuf said

According to the Texas Education Agency; Texas Comptroller, the average salary for teachers in Texas has remained steady with slight increases within the last decade. This hope is dimming for school districts that have been awaiting extra money to help pay for raises.

The Lone Star State had a $32 billion surplus and Governor Greg Abbott even created a task force in 2022 to improve teacher pay and retention. However, lawmakers haven't agreed on plans to provide more funding for educators.

Community members like Darcy Esparza have been raising awareness for teacher's and their needs.

The business owner created a graphic and posted it on Facebook to encourage people to purchase items on teacher's Amazon Wish Lists. As a former educator, the entrepreneur said, she understands the challenges teachers overcome on the job daily.

"They really do not get paid well and they are tasked with more things than just educating your child. You're their child's social worker sometimes. You're also their shoulder to cry on." she said.

As people take advantage of deals on Amazon Prime Day, she hopes people will keep teachers in mind.

"It's like paying it forward in that Starbucks drive-thru line. Why not pay it forward to teachers? You don't always have to pick the big expensive item." she said. "I bought someone two dollars worth of pencils, and I bought another person $10 worth of stickers. I think 21 teachers will have gifts from me that make a difference."

Amazon Prime Day sales will end on July 13. However, even after that, teachers are hoping to garner support before the school year begins.