Published Online: May 26, 2004
Published in Print: May 26, 2004, as Take Note

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Supplying a Need

You need to be a teacher to really understand the amount of money instructors spend on classroom supplies, says Carol Thompson. That’s why the former Minnesota teacher decided to open a store selling discount classroom supplies.

Teacher’s Pet, located in the basement of an old post office in downtown Anoka, Minn., will celebrate its first anniversary on June 30.

"Anything that teachers use in their classrooms, like bulletin boards, staplers, markers, and tape, are not provided by the school buildings or districts," said Ms. Thompson, who was a teacher for seven years. "The first year I taught, I spent about $1,500 on school supplies."

In contrast, Ms. Thompson said, some school districts may reimburse teachers only $50 to $70 a year for materials and supplies.

Ms. Thompson left her job teaching in the Osseo district after getting sick last fall. She couldn’t afford not to work, and came up with the idea of starting a business dealing in discounted school supplies.

Some of her inventory, in fact, is purchased from teachers who are finished using materials in their own classrooms. Sandra Skaar, the president of the Anoka-Hennepin affiliate of Education Minnesota, the statewide teachers’ union, said the reason teachers have been taking money out of their own pockets is that public education is not well funded.

"You see teachers spending their own money, parents and children fund-raising—it is really sad, in my opinion," Ms. Skaar said.

Ms. Thompson also mentioned that teachers buy materials because sometimes the curriculum does not accommodate every student. Teachers’ "idea books" can help instructors reach pupils who aren’t where they should be, she said.

"I need to constantly give them things that can help them," Ms. Thompson said. "The problem is that each of those books costs between $10 and $30."

In addition to idea books in various areas such as language, art, and reading, her inventory includes picture and chapter books and used flashcards, educational games, and bulletin-board items.

The customers are usually teachers, Ms. Thompson said, but there are also some homeschooling parents and Sunday school teachers who shop at her store.

—Tal Barak

Vol. 23, Issue 38, Page 3

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