Jaclyn Bauer had an idea. The holidays were coming up and the mother of four knew parents liked to give holiday gifts to teachers. As an active PTO volunteer who’s in the school frequently, she also knew the teachers at Bass Hoover Elementary in Stephens City, Va., were getting desperately low on classroom supplies. She wondered: Instead of holiday gifts, what if parents could buy items right from a teacher’s online holiday wish list?
Bauer’s supply wish list idea came from her personal connection to teachers. As the daughter of two teachers who worked in a suburban New Jersey district, Bauer saw firsthand how much of their own time and money her parents gave to students. But she points out that her school district was relatively well-off and her parents had the resources they needed to do their jobs well.
“We have less funding here in Virginia and most teachers run out of supplies by October,” she says. “They spend their own money, and they’ve had to ask parents to donate whole reams of paper because they were completely out. I knew a lot of parents like to give teachers holiday gifts so I thought we could send out wish lists to let parents know what teachers our teachers need.”
In mid-December, Bauer uploaded 10 participating teachers’ lists to Teacherlists.com, a sister site of PTO Today that gives leaders and teachers a simple way to share classroom wish lists with parents online, so they could buy exactly what teachers needed for their classrooms.
By uploading lists, she was automatically entered into the TeacherLists Wish it to Win it Sweepstakes, where each Wednesday from November through February one randomly selected winner received a $200 gift card to use to fulfill wish lists.
“When I opened the email that told me I won the Wish it to Win it Wednesdays that week, I said, ‘no way, is this for real?’” Bauer says. “I was ecstatic and immediately told our PTO president that I can get $200 to go a long way.”
She said uploading the lists to the TeacherLists website was easy. “Just get an active parent who’s willing to do the work,” Bauer says with a laugh. “Seriously, it’s not hard to do. It only took a few minutes and it got the lists out there for everyone to use. It didn’t take me hours and hours to do, which I loved.”
Bauer shared the lists and online links on the Bass Hoover PTO Facebook page and on a handout the children took home. With those two versions available, Bauer says parents didn’t have to worry that a store would run out of copies of the lists.
A bargain hunter who always shops for the best deals, Bauer loaded the $200 prize onto her own reloadable Amazon account gift card, getting an additional $20 from Amazon as an incentive. Then she added $30 of her own money for a grand total of $250 to spend on her wish list shopping spree.
“I used a spin-the-wheel app to draw winners and it was wonderful that it randomly picked the music teacher, the arts teacher, a first grade teacher, and the instructional coach. Besides the 1st grade teacher, these are people who normally don’t get holiday gifts or help,” she says. “Parents think of buying for their homeroom teacher but rarely think of getting the music teacher something, so this really helped them.”
In the end, Miss Culp, the instructional coach, Miss Sherman, the music teacher, and Ms. Marker, the first grade teacher, got everything they asked for on their wish lists. Art teacher Mrs. Schiavone also received many of the items on her list, including books and hand wipes.
“We got great feedback from parents who loved being able to go online to look at the lists, and from teachers who were ecstatic because instead of the usual lotion or mug or things they probably get a lot of, they got really useful items and they spent less out of pocket,” says Bauer.
Parents loved the idea and used the lists to fill the remaining teachers’ wish lists, and Bauer hopes these supplies last for the rest of the school year.
“I see how hard these teachers work and how they’re struggling to get everything they need on their pay. They spend money out of pocket and they do it willingly with a smile on their faces, but they shouldn’t have to. The holiday wish lists were a huge help,” says Bauer. “I know there are a lot of families that don’t have the income, but every little bit helps. Instead of those other gifts, teachers would much rather have supplies.”
Bauer had so much success using TeacherLists to post and share the holiday wish lists that she recently got approval from her school district to administer Bass Hoover’s back-to-school supply lists, too. She hopes that parents will take advantage of online wish lists to gift teachers enough supplies to last well past October.