You’re never too old to celebrate back-to-school — and Tucson Values Teachers hopes Tucsonans of all ages, those with and without kids, will rally to support local children and teachers as the new school year begins.
“In the past five years we have raised just short of $500,000 worth of school supplies. Last year we raised $192,000 and we definitely hope to meet or beat that goal this year,” said Katie Rogerson, interim executive director and director of marketing and outreach for Tucson Values Teachers, a regional initiative created to respect, reward and invest in local teachers.
The organization offers grants, resources and professional development for teachers through the Tucson Supplies Teachers school supply drive. The annual drive has grown to more than 10 partners including Walgreens, the Tucson Association of Realtors, News 4 Tucson’s Kristi’s Kids, Pima Federal Credit Union and the Community Finance Corporation. Other supporters include Raytheon, Wendy’s, Peter Piper Pizza, McDonald’s and Tucson Young Professionals.
Tucson Supplies Teachers provides supplies to 13 school districts, 31 private schools and 29 charter schools throughout Southern Arizona (and to the Arizona State Schools for the Deaf and Blind). Supplies collected go directly to teachers, who pass them on to students.
“For years we have known anecdotal data about teachers, but we did a survey in October of 2013 and found that 93 percent of teachers had out-of-pocket expenses for classroom supplies and things for students such as field trips,” Rogerson said. For most of those teachers, those expenses top $1,000. “There is really no other profession that requires their workforce to pay for things like that out of their own pockets,” she said.
Helping teachers ultimately helps their students, said Jackie Franco, coordinator of the Family Resource Center for Flowing Wells School District. She said that through Tucson Supplies Teachers, the resource center stocked the classrooms of about 100 teachers in 10 schools last year.
“It is most definitely helpful to our teachers,” she said. “It is particularly important for new teachers because they need that extra help even more. Since they are young and don’t have a lot of money, it is often hard for them to get started and this gets them on the right track and welcomes them to the district.”
In its continued effort to provide aid to teachers new and experienced, the Tucson Association of Realtors has changed the Stuff-the-Bus events it has sponsored over the past three years. This year it will stage a “Stuff the Piggy Bank” bus celebration in which each dollar raised will be matched by Tucson Values Teachers and Walgreens.
Steve Redmond, president of the Realtors’ association, said the group sees the new event as an opportunity for donors, students and teachers alike.
“Tucson Values Teachers can take these cash donations and double the value of each dollar. Busy professionals in our industry and others recognize the significance of that,” Redmond said.
Since he doesn’t have children, Redmond said he wants to help out with school supplies drives, but doesn’t know what to buy.
“Now, all I have to do is write a check and my donation will be doubled and Tucson Supplies Teachers can buy what is really needed for the kids,” he said. “That is so much easier. It is the best possible scenario.”