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Billings social media page aids teachers in collecting supplies for classrooms



Billings, Montana – Before kids begin attending her classes on Tuesday at Lewis & Clark Middle School, Kerra Olson was putting the finishing touches on her new classroom on Monday.

Olson transitioned to teaching science to seventh graders after roughly twenty years of teaching elementary school. The need for new necessities arises while starting at a new school and in a new classroom.

“When you’re a new teacher, it’s a lot different. You’re working on really basic things, and the school does provide some things for you, but it’s not a lot,” Olson said.

The classroom, according to Olson, has chairs, tables, and microscopes. But she still needed to use her own money to make additional purchases.

“Teachers are kind of that mentality of whatever it takes,” she said. “They’re willing to do whatever their students need.”

Olson fills her class with food in case the pupils are hungry, keeps a drawer full of toothbrushes, and has even bought clothing in the past for kids who needed it, in addition to the customary decorations, supplies, and enjoyable items teachers buy.

“I have a limit at our house now where you can’t spend more than $250 a month. It could be thousands of dollars if you don’t limit it,” Olson said.

Olson is not the only educator that invests thousands of their own funds in the class each year.

Tracy Stanaway, a local of Billings, has a daughter who works as a teacher at Broadwater Elementary. She has seen her daughter spend money on maintaining and setting up her classroom each year.

“I saw how much money every year she put out for her school, and for her teachers, friends and for her students. And she just really needed some help,” Stanaway said. “Teachers work so hard, and their pay isn’t great. So, we need to support them in any way that we can.”

Stanaway established the Adopt a Teacher Billings Facebook page out of a desire to assist. On the page, teachers can describe themselves and post their Amazon wish lists with anyone who wants to buy supplies for them.

The purpose of the page goes beyond simply offering assistance at the start of the academic year. According to Stanaway, teachers require supplies all year long.

“You can send things directly from the Amazon to the teacher,” Stanaway said. “We started Adopt a Teacher Billings in 2020 and it started with one member, me.”

Over 1,300 people are a part of the Facebook group now, three years later. One participant is Olson, who claimed to use the page and simply wished she had requested assistance earlier in her professional career.

“The wishlist is amazing. Tracy’s page helps you just feel like you’re not alone, and there are so many people who want to support teachers and who want to support education. It just feels like this little group of cheerleaders just cheering you on,” Olson said. reports that in the spring of 2023, a poll of more than 3,000 teachers found that instructors nationally spend an average of $860 a year of their own money on their classrooms, up from $600 in 2015 and $740 in 2020.

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