It was the night before school started, and new teacher Catelyn McGlamery couldn't believe what she was walking away with: an easel.
An easel for her first-grade classroom could easily set her back $200 or $300. She'd already spent more than $1,000 of her own money, so a big-ticket item like that was probably going to have to wait for next year.
“It costs a lot out of our pockets,” said McGlamery, who teaches in the Midwest City-Del City School District. “I don't think people realize it. I didn't realize how much I was going to spend until I started buying stuff.”
McGlamery was one of more than 500 teachers who came to the opening week of the Teacher Store, a new, free resource for teachers in the area. The store is run by Feed The Children.
Officials decided to open the store to six specific school districts in the area with the neediest students, said Erin Carlstrom, education director for Feed The Children. Those districts are Crooked Oak, Crutcho, Midwest City-Del City, Millwood, and Putnam City.
“This goes directly to the students who need it,” Carlstrom said.
Officials hope to expand the store to more districts in the future, she said.
While the idea of giving supplies to teachers isn't new, the setup is, Carlstrom said.
In previous years, teachers received some supplies at the beginning of the year, but they couldn't necessarily select specific items they needed. The giveaway was in a hot warehouse filled with pallets of donations.
Now the store is in an air-conditioned warehouse, and teachers can peruse shelves filled with books, envelopes, pens and other essentials. They can take hand sanitizer or pens topped with monster-shaped erasers. It's up to the teachers to choose what they need.
And that part was really exciting, said McGlamery, the first-grade teacher.
“We had no idea what this place would be like when we came,” she said, “and we were just overwhelmed.”
McGlamery came to the Teacher Store with two co-workers — reading specialist Lauren Fulford and fellow first-grade teacher Tina Rupe. They all teach at Barnes Elementary, 10551 SE 59.
Rupe picked up all kinds of random things she needed, like pink highlighters, modeling clay and a class set of workbooks. Some of her things will stay in her classroom, but other items will go directly to students, many of whom won't have enough supplies to start the year.
“They feel such pride in their stuff,” she said. “They really take care of it.”
The weakened economy and shrinking public funds have put a pinch on families and teachers, Fulford said.
“Budgets are just really tight,” Fulford said. “We are definitely starting (the school year) with what we can purchase.”
Fulford said she was grateful to take books she could give to students.
“The kids are just thrilled to get a brand new book of their own,” she said.
Free books are available to teachers throughout the state — not just within the metro area, Carlstrom said.