Like so many educators, Kaley McKee’s face lights up as soon as she starts talking about her students. She’s a first-grade teacher at Akron, Ohio’s Firestone Park Elementary, and has been teaching for nine years.
She says, making her classroom a warm, welcoming place is always a priority.
“It makes them want to be there, makes them feel safe, kind of builds a little community with us as we decorate our classroom together,” McKee said.
That all costs money. It should be no secret that teachers aren’t making big bucks.
“Barely enough. I’ve always held a second job, I’ve always held a serving job,” she said.
So a few years ago, McKee jumped on the Amazon Wishlist wagon for help stocking her classroom.
You may have seen the hashtag #ClearTheList shared on social media — friends, family, strangers, and even celebrities buying bits and pieces for teachers from an Amazon shopping wishlist delivered right to their door.
Things that need to be restocked all year long like paper, pencils, and glue sticks.
Plus, snacks, snacks, and more snacks.
“Snacks are a big part of my wish list because I feed them snacks every day, just in case. Just in case they didn’t get that morning meal,” she said.
And then, things you might not always think teachers provide for students.
“Gloves and hats and mittens, I buy those in the wintertime for kids. Book bags, school boxes,” McKee said, remembering how one student’s siblings came to her classroom asking if they could also have warm winter clothes to wear.
Nonprofit AdoptAClassroom.org surveyed nearly 5,500 teachers and found that theyspend an average of $750of their own money on their classrooms.
The website lets family, friends, strangers donate to teachers to help with some of that burden.
“When teachers receive a donation on AdoptAClassroom.org, they feel like their community values them, their profession is respected and that people see all that they’re doing for their kids,” said Devon Karbowski at AdoptAClassroom.org.
Randi Weingarten is the president of the American Federation of Teachers, the largest teachers union in America.
“It is who teachers are, and it is what they do to make a difference in the lives of kids,” Weingarten said.
She said school systems should be providing necessary supplies but is grateful teachers can use sites like Amazon wishlists, AdoptAClassroom.org, and DonorChoose to get them help.
“There’s no other job that presumes that the employee is actually gonna subsidize the job and teachers do it just out of routine,” Weingarten said.
So far, for the upcoming school year, McKee has had 50 things purchased off her Amazon wishlist.. everything from snacks and scoop seats to posters, pencils, and even diverse dolls.
“A lot of my students are African American, and I noticed that all my hand-me-down Barbies were not, so I was able to get some more diverse because Barbies are the girls” favorite,” McKee said.
Half of the items are bought by family and friends who see McKee’s posts on Facebook or social media — the rest are from local businesses or even total strangers who want to stay anonymous.
This story was originally published by WEWS in Cleveland, Ohio.