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Sarasota Thursday, Aug. 20, 2020 6 months ago

Facebook group helps teachers get supplies for new year

Adopt a Sarasota County Teacher Facebook Group allows residents to gift teachers with necessary back to school items.
by: Brynn Mechem Staff Writer

Throughout the school year, teachers typically buy myriad supplies for their classrooms, which can have a heavy impact on their wallets.

This year, however, they’ve had to add more items than ever to their list to ensure safe classrooms for their students.

Rather than sharing items, such as markers or books, students each have to have their own set. Not to mention the additional cleaning supplies and air purifier systems that many teachers want in their classrooms.

So one Sarasota County Schools teacher has created a way to help teachers get the supplies they need without breaking the bank.

Pat-e Gillezeau, a new-to-Sarasota teacher at Wilkinson Elementary, began a Facebook group called Adopt a Sarasota County Teacher after seeing a similar page in her old school district in Hillsborough County.

The page allows teachers throughout the county to post their classroom wish lists, so other members can purchase supplies to be delivered to the teachers in need. To date, the page has about 4,500 members.

It also is a place for teachers to share ideas and messages with one another. Gillezeau personally reads each post to make sure they are positive and friendly, which has been time-consuming, but she doesn’t mind.

“I just think anyone in my shoes, who would’ve come across a page similar to the one I saw, would have made one for Sarasota,” Gillezeau said. “I’m just happy everybody is getting the help and support they need right now.”

Gillezeau said she and several of her colleagues have received gifts on a nearly daily basis over the past few weeks.

“Never in a million years would I think that total strangers would be so willing to help teachers,” she said. “This isn’t something new that came with the pandemic. Teachers are always in need of an extra hand, and it’s just so awesome that there’s still kindness and positivity in this world.”

Gillezeau said the gifts are helpful for teachers at any time of the year, but the need has been magnified because of COVID-19.

Teachers receive about $250 on their tax return each year, which Gillezeau said is nowhere near the cost they spend in a regular year. With they pandemic, many teachers were worried about how much money they would have to spend to ensure each student had separate supplies.

One such teacher is Dani Sobolewski, a kindergarten teacher at Southside Elementary School. Through the page, Sobolewski has received more than 30 books and several play sets for her students.

“I’ve been receiving gifts almost on a daily basis, and it just feels really powerful and overwhelming to know that people want to contribute to your classroom to keep the learning and memories going for your kids,” she said. “It’s just really special.”

Aside from the gifts, Sobolewski said it has been uplifting to see all the positive comments from community members on the Facebook page.

“This year is going to be really challenging, so just to see the community rallying behind us and people wanting to contribute and help us as we start this new normal, it’s just really incredible,” she said. “It gives us that extra boost we need.”

And although Gillezeau said she’s “incredibly thankful” for the response so far, she encourages the public to continue checking the Facebook page even after the school year is underway.

“Throughout the year, there’s always something else we find out we need,” Gillezeau said. “This is uncharted territory, so I know we’re going to find more things that won’t work as the year progresses.”


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