Nonprofit gives Iowa teachers free supplies ahead of new school year

Published: Aug. 19, 2023 at 10:50 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Thousands of students in Eastern Iowa head back to school this Wednesday, but teachers are already in the classrooms getting ready for the new year. A “Restock and Refuel” event hosted by a nonprofit Saturday helped educators get the tools they need.

“I get supplies for my classroom, things that my students might need,” said Jennifer Hamel, a teacher at Jefferson High School in the Cedar Rapids Community School District.

Hamel, Esther Mwelwa, and Bénédicte Corbett all teach at Jefferson, and Saturday, they all visited The Teacher Store truck, parked outside the Linn Area Credit Union on Edgewood Road, to stock up for the new year.

“You can get a pack of pencils, you can get a couple of packs of note cards, you can get ear buds, you can get erasers, you can get markers, little bit of everything,” said Lacey Becker, Executive Director of The Teacher Store.

The three teachers TV9 spoke to said The Teacher Store was helpful in off-setting the money for supplies that they pay out of their own pockets each year.

Hamel estimated she spent “$200 to $400″ of her own money each year. Mwelwa said she tried to keep it under $100. Corbett said she spent “probably about $500 easy.”

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, during the 2014-2015 school year, 94% of public school teachers spent their own money on classroom supplies without any kind of reimbursement.

“It would be great if there was budgets allowed by our state government to cover all the necessary supplies for our students,” said Hamel.

These teachers said as nice as it is to pick up a few extra markers and pens, it’s even better just to know others are facing the same challenges.

“I know it’s very important for teachers today because teachers come out and see other teachers and you are so inspired to see, ‘No I’m not alone,’” said Mwelwa.

These teachers aren’t alone because they’re supporting each other, and the glue and pens and markers at the Teacher Store let them know that the community is supporting them, too.

“I think this event helps by just feeling special and taken care of,” said Corbett.