By the numbers: How much teachers spend out-of-pocket for their classrooms
It is no secret teachers all across Alaska spend their own money to make students feel at home in their classrooms. With school starting soon, this year will be no different.
"Teachers are people that care about kids. That's just what we do," said Finger Lake Elementary preschool special education teacher Sharon Zagyva. "And I don't feel like anything that you come and see today or hear today from me or anyone else here would be any different in any other building."
According to a survey of teachers by Scholastic in 2016, only 2% of educators said they didn't spend any money on their kids. Those teachers who reported spending their own money, on average, spent $530 on classroom items or for student use. The figure was higher for those in a high poverty school, which included principals who spent money.
"In the last month I've spent 500 for this upcoming year," Zagyva said.
Zagyva has been at Finger Lake Elementary for 12 years and is going into her 28th year of teaching. She and preschool teacher Rachael Gerard, who's next door to her, gave a look around their classrooms and pointed out what they've spent over the years.
Gerard broke down out-of-pocket costs in just one corner of her classroom. She spent:
Gerard estimates she's spent about $300 on her class so far this summer. Zagyva also has a shed in the back of the school packed with more toys and supplies for her classroom. She estimates she spent about $1,000 for items in the shed.
Zagyva says she typically doesn't spend that much on her classroom but worked a summer job to afford some extras and to deal with some medical bills. She has two family members fighting cancer, including her husband Kevin who was a teacher at Colony Middle School and is now retired. Still, Zagyva says she finds it important to continue giving to kids in her class.
Last year Gerard also purchased four bicycles for her students as a reward for reading. Gerard says it's hard to see some of her students go without things in the Title I school, such as backpacks.
"I'm not going to not do something. You know, it hurts my heart even to think about that," Gerard said. "I've had probably ten, of the last six years, ten preschoolers have been homeless."
Both teachers say they do get school allowances for some supplies and a carpet allowance. But they say that money is used up quickly and most of what they showed in their classrooms they paid for themselves.
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