Teachers – for good reason – often feel underpaid and unappreciated, a trend that has accelerated during the remote-learning classes during the pandemic, face masks in schools, and the assault on school boards by folks who want their ideologies reflected in school curriculums.
In addition, teachers often spend their own money on classroom materials for students. A recent event for teachers in Reno – sponsored by the community support groups and assisted by Washoe County students — helped with that part of the equation.
“You don’t want teachers to spend their own money on supplies,” said Liz McFarland, Altrusa Club secretary. A service organization for Reno and Sparks, Altrusa creates its own projects and joins other groups’ events to give its 22 members opportunities to provide direct, person-to-person service.
The Teacher Appreciation event gave 25 Washoe County teachers stacks of takeaway treasures, from coffee makers and crockpots to pencils and reading books, all collected and donated by two local nonprofits, Spread the Word and Altrusa.
Reading books, pens, pencils, markers, cleaning wipes, even teapots and alarm clocks went out the door of the Spread the Word’s Gentry Way office. The Spread the Word program began in Las Vegas and opened its Reno branch about three years ago, said program manager Hayley Hayden. She collects gently-used books for kindergarten through fifth-grade classrooms and recruits adult volunteers to read in schools.
A June 2021 survey by adoptaclassroom.org found that teachers spent an average of $750 of their own money to purchase school supplies for their homes, classrooms and students during the 2020/2021 school year and that 30% of teachers spent $1,000 or more on school supplies each year. The estimated 19.2% teacher weekly wage penalty in 2019 means that, on average, teachers earned just 80.8 cents on the dollar compared with what similar college graduates earned working in other professions—and much less than the relative 92.9 cents on the dollar that teachers earned in 1979.– Economic Policy Institute.
“Teachers always take advantage of free stuff,” said Debbie Nicolle, an English as a Second Language teacher at Stead Elementary. All Washoe County teachers were invited to the giveaway through public notices, posts on Facebook, and advisories from the district counselors’ office.
Summer Bean, librarian at Mariposa Academy who is also a 20-year teacher, was happy to find books, including volumes in Spanish, for the school’s instructors. “We have no library budget, all the books are donations,” she explained. She will cut up scrapbook papers she found at the event into bookmarks.
Over and above the physical essentials and goodies, teachers said felt very appreciated by the organizers and volunteers present.
More than teaching
McFarland praised teachers for “what they do for kids who need extra help, making sure they have books at home, food to eat, all outside of their job description.”
Spread the Word accepts donations of gently-used books for elementary students. For more information, contact Hayley Hayden, program manager, at 1-775-507-7007. For more information about Altrusa service club, call Courtney Vogt, 1-775-200-2750 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
People should appreciate “the extra work teachers put in daily, developing meaningful lessons and providing opportunities from the community,” Martha Aguilar said. For example, she said, volunteer readers from the Reno Rodeo come to Lois Allen Elementary where she teaches first grade.
Abagail Cobb, 17, who attends the Academy of Arts, Careers and Technology of Washoe County School District, said her teachers helped her prepare for college. Reilly Isaacson, 16, also at AACT, pointed out that teachers “teach the new generation.” The two girls, with classmate Brooke Cobb, 17, volunteered at the event, weighing books and carrying stacks of supplies for the teachers. All three girls are members of the National Honor Society.
Preparing for jobs
“Teachers teach all the other occupations,” observed Kahlan Hurst, 12, daughter of Lloyd Diedrichsen Elementary teacher Leah Hurst.
“I have a closet full of hats. We are not just teachers, we are counselors, moms, nurses. That’s how we build rapport with students.” — LaTisha Liles-Assiewue, English teacher at Sierra Nevada Job Corps.
“Teachers make a lasting impression on students for the rest of their lives,” said Matthew DeLongchamps, accompanying his wife Jennifer, a Katherine Dunn elementary second-grade teacher. He noted that teaching and modelling positive traits such as patience and self-discipline influence students’ academic and personal lives long-term.
Sara Howard, a Reed High School instructor in the “J4NG” (Jobs for Nevada’s Graduates) program, teaches practical life skills – work readiness, interview and resume skills, career and college exploration and communication skills. She left with useful items such as team-building exercises and resource books.
The gifts received by the teachers were welcomed and helped raise morale. Some attendees were outspoken about the rigors of the profession and said they don’t encourage their own children to become teachers.
A difficult occupation
“The number of hours of non-paid preparation, as well as low pay,” said Jennifer Sobers, an 11-year teacher at Pinecrest Academy, a Washoe County charter school. She has two children ages 8 and 10 years.
“I love being a teacher, but it’s really hard,” said Leah Hurst of Diedrichsen Elementary. “I come from a family of teachers, my brother, mother and father, and it’s nice to have the same (vacation) breaks.” But she also hopes her six children find other, better paying occupations.
Spread the Word manager Hayden was grateful for the participation by Altrusa members before and at the event.
“It was way more successful with Altrusa’s help.” A similar event last year attracted only a few teachers, she said. Altrusa members helped with cleaning the books and sorting them into categories, making it easier for teachers to find the books they needed, she added.
Altrusa members tapped into relationships with nonprofits and community members to gather small appliances, tote bags, winter sports vests, school supplies and other prizes such as a $100 spa gift card. Members also chipped in to purchase some items, Altrusa president Courtney Vogt said.