As students head back to the classrooms for the new 2019-2020 school year, not all of them can afford the tools needed to learn—a notebook, a pencil, or even a backpack.
So many of our dedicated teachers dip into their own family’s money to generously support our students.
But there’s a place called the Hillsborough Education Foundation’s Teaching Tools Store that is working to ensure all our students have the essentials they need to succeed—and the best part is our teachers in our Title I Schools can shop there monthly for FREE.
“Our Teaching Tools Store is available to all Title I Schools, and last year we gave out more than $3.5 million worth of tools and resources to students and teachers,” said Kim Jowell, Hillsborough Education Foundation President. “There is no shortage of need here in Hillsborough County. We want our students to be ready and prepared to be engaged in their learning every single day—not having the resources is really critical to that learning. So, we have invested resources around being able to do that for our teachers and our students.”
The store, located at 2306 N. Howard Avenue in Tampa, currently serves our teachers from 160 Title I Schools (federal designation that signifies 75% or more of the students in the school qualify for the free and reduced lunch program) and 10 instructional sites in our district. The store is open from July-May.
“I come to this store all the time. This is my third year here in the district, and this is one of the first places that I came when I was trying to build my classroom,” said Nicole Golden, Cleveland Elementary Kindergarten Teacher. “I’m trying to get sticky notes every time I come here, pencils, crayons, markers, highlighters—every month those are required.”
Ms. Golden and dozens of other teachers from Cleveland Elementary recently boarded a bus to make a trip to the Teaching Tools store as a team.
“I’m very excited! I got this 3D flip chart. I always get paper, pencil cases, math supplies and new books. I don’t have to worry about the pencil that a kid needs. I just give them one, and it really builds trust,” said Leah Burger, Cleveland Elementary 4th Grade Teacher.
Last year alone, the store provided free school supplies to support nearly 100,000 students.
“It makes them feel special, and it makes them feel like the classroom is a safe place where they can learn,” Burger said.
“I have peace of mind that I can teach what I need to teach with the tools and resources,” said Golden.
“You get 30 different tickets. Last year, that averaged about $289 worth of product for a teacher visit,” Jowell said.
“I always strike out well over the $200 mark. I’m just looking as they scan and scan, and then you also have the bonus items. So, it helps out a lot financially, because I don’t have to worry about it,” said Golden.
The store is staffed by volunteers who run the teacher check-in and check-out processes, stock shelves and sort donations. All full-time teachers at schools not currently served, can volunteer 3 hours per month at the Teaching Tools store and in return can shop once a month.
Since 2002, the Teaching Tools Store has provided more than $30 million in free school supplies to our students who need them the most.
“To know that a student is starting day one with the same resources that any other student has, regardless of their situations, is something that I 100 percent love and go to sleep every night knowing that good work is happening,” Jowell said.
Our teachers and our district are grateful for the community’s support.
“When you don’t have to come out of pocket and still have everything that you need to teach and give your kids—it’s a great feeling, so thank you,” said Golden.
“I’m so appreciative, and I feel thankful to be a part of a county that has something like this,” Burger said. “Thank you, Hillsborough Education Foundation for all that you do to support, not just me, but our students!”