Area teachers receive classroom donations through Adopt a Manatee County Teacher Facebook page.
When Katie Kandel, a fourth grade teacher at Freedom Elementary School, walked into school Aug. 10, she was shocked to see at least 11 Amazon packages for her.
The packages were filled with school supplies and items from an Amazon wish list she posted on the new Adopt a Manatee County Teacher page.
“It makes me so emotional that people are looking out for us, and they want the best for not just us as teachers but for my kids,” Kandel said. “A lot of these kids I’m not quite sure what their environments have been like since they haven’t been in school, so I want to make sure they come back to school and they know they’re loved and taken care of and have everything they need.”
Dozens of East County teachers have used the Facebook page to post their wish lists in hopes of getting more school supplies and items for their classrooms. Families, residents, businesses and others throughout Manatee County have donated and sent supplies to teachers in preparation for the school year, which started Aug. 17.
“It’s been like Christmas every day,” said Joadie Durfee, a fifth grade teacher at Braden River Elementary.
The page was created July 31 and by Aug. 3, the page had more than 75 posts from teachers from across the county and more than 1,400 members. As of Aug. 14, the page has more than 3,300 members.
“It gives us an extra added strength to come back into the classroom this year with all the uncertainty to know that we have support not only from our administration and from other teachers but also from the community as well,” said Sarah Jett, who is teaching a class for students with autism spectrum disorder at Freedom Elementary. “In all the years that you could possibly have a group like this, it’s just such a blessing for people to be willing to do this.”
Items teachers are requesting range from basic school supplies such as pencils, paper and notebooks to supplies to help keep the classrooms clean and safe whether it’s alcohol wipes or hand sanitizer.
Teachers said although the School District of Manatee County and their respective schools are providing cleaning and school supplies for the teacher, extra supplies will come in hand this year, especially because students can’t share supplies.
“It’s basically like you have to have a double set of almost everything or a triple set of everything because you can’t share and that truly does make a difference as far as each child has to have a certain set of materials to ensure the safety of those children,” Jett said.
Durfee requested and received alcohol wipes for her classroom to ensure classroom objects that are shared can be disinfected after every use.
“[Having enough supplies] makes or breaks your lesson and what you can do in the classroom,” Durfee said. “We do a lot of hands-on learning. I still want my students to be able to use science tools in the classroom, but I might not have enough for every student. ... We put it on some type of rotation for things to be used then sanitized so it can be used again. Without these extra sanitation items or extra materials we just wouldn’t be able to do those things.”
Sarah Brondyke, a second grade teacher at B.D. Gullett Elementary, received nine books from her wish list that address the pandemic, social distancing and worrying so she can teach her students in a kid friendly way about what’s happening and how to maneuver in the new normal as well as help them feel comfortable and safe in the classroom.
Teachers are able to receive items specific to the needs of their classrooms.
Jett received sensory toys, wiggly seats and noise canceling headphones to meet the needs of her students this year.
The donations have helped with teachers not spending as much out of pocket for supplies, classroom decorations and other items. Many teachers spend hundreds of dollars of their own money each year for items for their classrooms.
“We might be out shopping for something for home, but if we see something that we know we could use in our classroom it’s just our innate nature to get it,” Durfee said. “We don’t realize really until the end [of the year] sometimes that we have spent hundreds and thousands of dollars to keep our classrooms stocked with what they need. This platform has given us opportunities to increase student learning that we maybe wouldn’t have been able to have.”
Teachers are being asked to continue to update their wish lists throughout the year.