After a couple of weeks of summer vacation, teachers tend to begin the back-to-school countdown. Courtney Jones, a teacher in a rural school district in Tyler County is no exception. She learned early on that the resources she dreamed of for her fourth-grade math and third- to fifth-grade gifted-and-talented students could not be met by the district’s budget. It is a problem teachers face across the nation.
A May 2018 report by the National Center for Education Statistics shows that 94 percent of public-school teachers spent their own money on supplies for their classroom and their students. The study also finds that teachers spend an average of $479 out of pocket per year. In high-poverty schools, teachers are even more likely to open their wallets for the children in their classrooms.
Starting a movement
Jones had set up an Amazon classroom wish list for herself but kept it hidden from the public. But over the summer, she started wondering if there was an avenue for teachers everywhere to create a list, make it public, and then spread the word. Then individuals, businesses, and organizations wanting to support teachers could help. Jones searched online but could not find any groups that matched the idea she had in mind. She then started a movement.
July 1, Jones created a Facebook group she named Teacher Amazon Gifting. (That name has evolved into Support a Teacher – Teacher Gifting.) Three weeks after Jones started her group, she decided to tweet about the movement. In true Twitter fashion, she gave it a hashtag: #clearthelists. Aug. 18, just short of one month after setting up @support_a_teach on Twitter, the account had more than 21,700 followers. Jones’ Facebook page had 47,790 members, and her Instagram account had 7,849 followers. Those numbers continue to rise.
Country singer Casey Donahew heard about #clearthelists Aug. 2. An elementary teacher had tagged him on Twitter and posted her list. He responded with his own tweet the following day, “Lori, we just cleared your list with a little help from @RandyRogersBand #clearthelists.“ Since then, he has enlisted many of his friends in the industry. He has helped more than 100 teachers, and has set up a Go Fund Me page for #clearthelists.
When Jones heard about the Facebook page for teachers in the Valley, Clearthelists RGV – Supporting teachers and students in the RGV, she began posting her how-to videos on the page to help teachers in the Valley develop their own wish lists.
“I love supporting teachers,” Jones said during a recent phone interview. Although teaching is difficult due to budgetary issues and stress, she said having a supportive principal like hers makes it a lot easier. On her Facebook page, Jones expresses why this movement is so important:
I hope that teachers everywhere feel appreciated, loved and rejuvenated.