DENVER — State education leaders said Thursday they know it's very common for teachers to dip into their own pockets to pay for supplies for their classroom, which is why the Colorado Department of Education and crowd funding website Donors Choose have partnered to launch a program that will help cover some of that cost.
"We had to buy our own dice, we had to buy math games, reading games; we had to buy our own books to have our classroom libraries. So, none of this was in the classroom — everything was teacher funded," explained Abby Johnson, who served as a teacher of the Cherry Creek School District over the last decade. She recently stepped away from the classroom, but estimates she spent at least $4,000-5,000 out-of-pocket over the years.
Johnson explained that many of her teacher colleagues faced the same challenges. It made for tough decisions for the mom of two.
"I felt like I was choosing between my kids and my school kids. And for me, who looks at my students as my own, that was really hard for me to have to choose," said Johnson.
She and other teachers would reach out for help, using online wishlists or other websites like Donors Choose to ask for community help to fund materials for their classroom.
The new partnership between the state department of education and Donors Choose will allow teachers to apply for funding for a specific classroom project and receive up to $800 in funding.
"That can be supplies, technology, instructional material, hands-on manipulatives... any of the kinds of things that you think will really help your students learn and recover from the disruptions of the pandemic," said Colorado Commissioner of Education Susana Cordova.
The money is coming from federal COVID-19 relief funds, on a first come, first served basis. On top of the $800 project, the state will cover up to $200 of fees or shipping. The funding cannot be used for teacher pay, gift cards, virtual trips or classroom visitors.
"Donors Choose will review the projects, ensure that they aligned with the purpose of helping accelerate recovery, and package and send the materials to the teachers' schools where the resources become the school's property. It'll be a great way for schools to build up the materials that we know our students need," said Cordova.
Johnson said she's happy to hear teachers are getting some extra support that they deserve.
"Teachers are truly there because they love your kids. They're not there for the money. They're not there for the fame. They're there for your kids, and they love your kids. By allowing them to have this money, it's only helping your students and your kids," said Johnson.
Teachers interested in applying for the program can do so through the Donors Choose by clicking here.