GREAT FALLS — It’s back to school time and it’s not just families who sometimes struggle with the increasing cost of school supplies.
East Middle School teacher Adrienne Culliton is one of the many who has benefited from a Facebook page called ‘Adopt a Teacher, Great Falls Helping Great Educators.’
She says a box of 72 Expo markers would usually cost about $30-$40 out of her own pocket.
“I know last year about 75-percent of the teachers got their wish list fulfilled entirely,” said Jen Gray, one of the organizers of the program now in its second year.
Gray saw the need after going through the challenges of homeschooling her daughter during the early stages of the pandemic: “I knew then it was kind of a lightning strike saying my teachers are having to do this not only for my kid but several other kids."
Culliton said, “Last year was so helpful because with Covid we had stricter sanitation protocols, things we usually share, we couldn’t last year.”
The continuously growing group has well over a thousand members. People request to join and once approved, have access to teachers’ Amazon wish lists.
“I think it’s just been so nice for those teachers even if it’s just five dollars that gets donated that’s five dollars that’s not coming out of their pocket,” said Gray.
Members can also stock teacher supply lists by shopping at stores and delivering items to the school.
For Culliton, who teaches up to 140 kids, the costs can quickly add up.
“Seems by mid-year students are eating pencils or they’re disappearing, and I hate to have a kid come into my classroom and not have pencils,” said Culliton. “Whether its buying simple supplies like pencils and paper all year long or some of the enrichment games and activities to be able to have someone help me buy that instead of just buying it year after year on my own was really helpful for me.”
“Teachers are always kind of dipping into their own pockets to improve their classrooms,” said Gray.
Gray says she hopes the program continues. She would also like to see a bank step up to help set up an account for financial donations. Gary says she would also like to see more businesses adopt teachers and even envisions a friendly challenge between businesses to see who can adopt the most.
For Culliton, the program has been extremely beneficial: “Knowing as a teacher that we’ve got community members willing to support us even if they don’t know who we are or a retired colleague saying of course I’ll send you some pencils,” said Culliton. “I don’t get to see them down the hallway anymore but they’re still part of my education.”