An elementary school teacher in Oklahoma, after becoming frustrated of paying for classroom supplies out of pocket, decided to turn to an alternative source of funding that also drew attention to an issue many educators face. Teresa Danks, 50, panhandled at a busy intersection with a sign that read, “Teacher Needs School Supplies! Anything Helps,” and received mostly positive feedback.
As reported by ABC News, Danks, a teacher who resides in Claremore, Oklahoma, spent much of her summer shopping thrift store and garage sales to help gather supplies for her third-grade classroom. She got into a discussion with her husband about the amount of money being spent and ultimately came up with the panhandling idea.
“My husband and I were just talking that morning and he kind of jokingly said, ‘You could always make a sign and go on the corner like the panhandlers,’” said Danks. “I said, ‘You know what? I think I’m going to do that. That’s a great idea.’”
Danks wrote a message on poster board and held up the sign at an intersection for around 10 minutes. She was surprised by the positive response she received while standing near the busy road.
“It just felt so scary,” said Danks when discussing the experience. “But it was a wonderful feeling to hear people being so supportive of teachers.”
Danks make around $35,000 a year as a school teacher and spends nearly $2,000 of that on supplies for your classroom each year.
During her panhandling experiment, she collected about $50.
While she was at the intersection, she posted a photo on Facebook that quickly went viral, even drawing the attention of a local news station. The next time she came out with her sign, news cameras were on site.
“What started just for me to get supplies in my classroom and help my students has really grown much greater than myself,” said Danks, who now has a GoFundMe page to help her cause.
The Tulsa Public School District, for which Danks works, has seen budgets cut along with the rest of the state. The reductions in funding have led some Oklahoma teachers to seek employment elsewhere.
Alicia Priest, the president of the Oklahoma Education Association, stated, “It should shock and sadden us that it has come down to a teacher having to go out on a street corner and ask for money so that the students in the classroom get what they need to succeed, but more power to her.”
She went on to say, “Teachers have always bought supplies that they wanted to decorate their rooms but, in Oklahoma within the last five years, with the funding cuts that we’ve taken, it’s things like textbooks and library books and graphic calculators.”
Danks confirms some of the supplies she purchases with her own money include classroom staples as well as additional items that will allow students to participate in hands-on projects and achieve “excellence” in her classroom.