Stocking Up with a Smile

Stocking Up with a Smile
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A classroom table piled high with various school supplies.

This pile of classroom supplies represents merely a fraction of what elementary teachers at the Silver Creek Central School District are getting to enhance students’ learning via The Teacher’s Desk, an educator resource in Buffalo. 

Imagine a store where educators are invited to fill shopping carts with classroom necessities then stroll out the door without opening their wallets or spending a cent.

Thanks in part to the persistence of Silver Creek Elementary School Principal Merrie Maxon, teachers here are reaping tens of thousands of dollars in classroom supplies – more than $70,000 in fact – via the generosity of The Teacher’s Desk. The Western New York nonprofit organization operates a store where teachers from qualifying schools can shop free for books, supplies and resources. In order to qualify for this incentive, schools must have at least 70% of their students participate in the free or reduced lunch program. 

“This is a perfect example of what Principal Maxon is capable of doing for us and how far she’ll go to get us what we need,” said Elementary Dean of Students Julie Harford, who was one of the first educators in the district to get a shopping appointment to gather valuable resources. 

Maxon, who just began her second year helming Silver Creek Elementary School, applied to the program over the summer and strongly advocated for her staff and students because the district is just shy of the 70% lunch participation rate. Her persistence paid off: the district got notice in mid-August that 72 teachers from the elementary school were invited to make shopping spree appointments at the store on Northampton Street in Buffalo. That means Silver Creek can receive up to $72,000 in free supplies.

Every year, The Teacher’s Desk distributes $6,000,000 in free school supplies to 130,000 students in need from nine WNY counties. Its mission is to distribute free school supplies to students in need, to encourage teachers and to provide purpose through volunteerism. 

Amy Heller, a fourth- and fifth-grade special education teacher, spent a morning at The Teacher’s Desk with her husband on a recent Saturday and has some tips for fellow educators who have future appointments there.

Heller says the small store is run very efficiently and recommends bringing a friend or family member along to help push the cart. Educators are permitted 90 minutes to peruse the products, but Heller was able to finish up in about 45 minutes.

“Work from the back of the store to the front to avoid crowding with other teachers shopping,” says Heller, who expressed appreciation to the volunteers on hand that day who helped her check out and load her vehicle.

Some of Heller’s top scores include several sturdy binders, some interesting coloring books, notebooks, writing implements, Post-Its, sponges and a lot of incidental items. Heller plans to share some of her supplies with fellow teachers.

“It’s great for us to have the opportunity to stock our classrooms not out of our pocket,” says Heller, who says her students are writing thank-you cards to some of the organizations that support The Teacher’s Desk via supply drives. “A lot of them items will help fill in the blanks for students who lack basic classroom necessities.”

Samantha D’Amaro, a teacher at Silver Creek via the Seneca Nation Department of Education who also recently completed her shopping spree, expressed her gratitude to Maxon for facilitating the opportunity to shop at The Teacher’s Desk.

“It was amazing,” said D’Amaro. “Everything will be put to use.”

As for Maxon, she’s pleased to see staff and students enjoy the windfall all for the sake of improved learning. 

“The generosity of The Teacher’s Desk is making so many things possible for our students and teachers,” said Maxon. “Supporting our teachers and ensuring they are equipped with what they need to provide our students with a top-notch educational experience is a priority.” 

UPK-12 schools in Western New  York interested in participating should e-mail to apply.

Julie Harford give thumbs up as she and a volunteer lead a shopping cart full of school supplies through a parking lot.

Elementary Dean of Students Julie Harford gave two big thumbs up after her $1,000 shopping spree this summer. Dozens of educators at Silver Creek are poised to snag tens of thousands of dollars in additional classroom supplies in the coming months.