ST. LOUIS – Back-to-school shopping can be stressful. Parents have to buy backpacks, notebooks, pencils, paper, markers and so much more. But what happens when a teacher has to foot the bill?
According to a survey published by the U.S. Department of Education last year, 94 percent of American public school teachers paid for supplies without reimbursement in the 2014-2015 school year.
A potential solution has shown up to fix the problem. It all started last month with #clearthelists, a hashtag trending on Twitter. The viral social media campaign is helping teachers across St. Louis purchase the supplies they need to successfully run their classrooms this school year.
The brainchild of a Texas teacher who saw the need, the #clearthelists campaign is a way for teachers to create an Amazon wish list online, filled with supplies to enhance their students’ educational experience. A donor can pick any item from the list to purchase for a teacher, anonymously or not.
In the past few weeks, there has been an outpouring of support for teachers and educators all across the country, thanks to the power of social media.
For McCluer North High School teacher Brenda Schnettler, the #clearthelists movement is about giving her students a hands-on learning experience.
Schnettler works in the Ferguson-Florissant school district teaching science and has been an educator for the past 12 years.
“There’s always that stigma [that] you don’t want to ask people to help supply your classroom, but I don’t think most people realize how much money out of pocket we really spend to go the extra mile for our kids,” Schnettler said.
“Most of the time it’s stuff we can do our job without, but it makes it a whole lot better,” she explained.
She said she caught word about the #clearthelists movement from another teacher in July. “I’ve definitely gifted a lot more than I’ve had taken off of my list,” Schnettler said.
“They’ve been trying to get it out more, not just teachers helping teachers but getting the public … to help us out a little bit because we do spend so much money to make things better for our kids,” she said.
“We’re making a really big impact on the youth of America, and sometimes it’s a little nice to get a little bit of recognition,” Schnettler added.
Carlet Studamire has been an educator in St. Louis for more than 30 years. She teaches computer skills at Kennard Classical Junior Academy Elementary School in south St. Louis and has worked with St. Louis Public Schools for the past 12 years.
Each student in the school will have to visit Studamire at some point during their day, and she said she worked with nearly 60 children on any given day.
“I’ve been in the school system for a very long time. I have also personally bought things that I’ve wanted to keep and not have to leave when I leave,” Studamire said.
While the need may be more dire for some teachers than others, the underlying message remains the same: If you are a teacher, you have had to pay out of pocket for supplies at some point in your career.
“I do find that a lot of teachers do go in their pockets, like with the other regular public schools where we have predominantly low-income families,” Studamire said.
Even though she has not personally had to pay out of pocket for any school supplies this year, she said, “Most of the teachers just go out and do it because they do it. Some complain, some don’t. Different schools, they do different things.”
The director of communications for St. Louis Public Schools, Meredith Pierce, said in a text message, “All our schools have all the start-up supplies they need. Some teachers use other methods to get specialty items.”
If you want to help a teacher #clearthelists, just search the hashtag on Twitter.