Social media trend helps Central Virginia teachers acquire school supplies

RICHMOND, Va. — Teachers in Central Virginia are among those benefiting from a social media trend that helps them get the supplies they need for the classroom.

The #clearthelist movement was started by a teacher in Texas. Teachers create an Amazon wish list of supplies they need for their classroom, post it on social media, and people, sometimes complete strangers, will help purchase those items.

"I was crying, you know. Just opening packages. I was like, I’ve never even met these people. This is amazing,” said Ariel Goldberg, a 5th Grade Teacher at Chimborazo Elementary School, a Richmond Public School.

Goldberg said she had created a list and shared it with friends and family and gotten some of the items taken care of, but when she posted it to a public page for the Church Hill neighborhood it was cleared in an hour.

“And it was awesome because I started to receive the packages and in the notes, it was, ‘From your friendly neighbor so-and-so’”, added Goldberg. “People I had never met before.”

Goldberg said she has also experienced the random kindness in real-life when she and colleague were shopping for schools supplies at a Home Depot in Midlothian.

She said when they were talking to one of the employees about what they were buying the supplies for, the employee comped everything in their shopping cart, between $150-200 of supplies.

“We were able to get so much,” said Goldberg. “It was mind-blowing. We walked out of there skipping through the parking lot putting the stuff in the car because it was such a random act of kindness…for it just to be ‘Hey, I’m doing this for you regardless, you shouldn’t be spending money on this.’ It was pretty awesome.”

"It just warms your heart how generous people are,” added Natalie Messick, a 3rd Grade Teacher at Chimborazo ES.

She also created a wish list which still has some items on it.

“I have a lot of books,” explained Messick. “I moved recently from second to third grade and I don’t have a lot of high-interest-level chapter books, which is important to snag your reluctant readers into reading.”

The #clearthelist campaign helps out what has become an annual event for most public school teachers, using their own money to buy the supplies they need for their classrooms and students.

“You just kind of look at it as you’re investing in your job and you’re investing in your kids,” said Goldberg. “And if you want to be comfortable in your classroom if you want the students to be comfortable in your classroom, you have to spend money.”

“Not every child that comes to school can afford their supplies, so usually it ends up coming out of our pockets,” added Messick.

Both teachers said they also get help from their schools’ Parent-Teacher Association, which reimburses teachers to a degree.

Richmond Public Schools is also helping its teachers get additional supplies.

Superintendent Jason Kamras tweeted that each teacher in the system received a $150 Amazon gift card. Messick and Goldberg said it was the second year they received those gift cards.

Meanwhile, every teacher at three RPS schools (Wythe, Boushall, and Woodville) were surprised on Thursday with a $300 gift card to Walmart.

RPS also has the “Teacher Supply Store” at Norrell Elementary School. Through donations, the aim of the store is to "decrease the personal investment teachers make every year to ensure there are enough supplies for students and the classroom."

RPS is currently holding a t-shirt drive to help raise money for the store. As of Thursday, they had sold 289 shirts out of their 500 shirt goal with ten days left in the drive.

A similar concept was held all week long at the Chesterfield Towne Center for Chesterfield County Public School (CCPS) teachers.

For years, CCPS’ Office of Community and Family Engagement (OFCE) has held its “From Crayons to Computers” program which offers free school supplies to CCPS teachers.

“Instead of operating one spot, we’ve decided to go with a pop-up model,” said CCPS OCFE Coordinator Amy Bartilotti. She added that they had between 150-200 teachers come to the pop up location at the mall each day this week.

Bartilotti, a former CCPS teacher herself, said it is a great opportunity to support the people who do the heavy lifting.

“The people that are touching the lives of kids every single day, our teachers, and the more that we can support them, the more they can support our students which are our most valuable asset,” added Bartilotti.

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