It started as a simple idea: Give teachers a way to give other teachers the classroom supplies they need. Pencils, children’s books, dry-erase markers, projectors, graphing calculators, flexible seating; items that give kids the best environment to learn in.
Within a month, the grassroots pay-it-forward movement spread into a viral crowdsourcing campaign that has been shared by celebrities and U.S. presidential candidates alike. Now, thousands of teachers are starting the school year with well-stocked classrooms.
Taking action to meet teachers’ needs
Teachers are used to digging deep into their pockets spending hundreds of dollars on their classroom supplies. Texas teacher Courtney Jones wanted to change that. The grade 4 math teacher, and gifted and talented coordinator from Tyler County, started the “Support a Teacher” movement.
We wanted to know more about Support a Teacher and the clearthelists campaign, so we went straight to the source.
“I wanted to create a way for teachers to collaborate and pay it forward,” Jones said. “Every time around this time of year, we all start buying supplies for our room. I knew we could put a positive spin on this time by purchasing for other teachers and sending words of encouragement.
“When it started to grow, very quickly, I knew we had something and we had to use our voices in a bigger way. “
Jones created a wish list group on Facebook to match educators who need help with those who can help.
Then the hashtag ClearTheLists was posted with links to teacher’s Amazon wish lists of school supplies. Overnight the campaign jumped from 1,000 to over 25,000 shares across social media.
Teacher help goes viral
Musicians and celebs like Casey Donahew, Lance Bass, Angela Kinsey, Khloé Kardashian, and U.S. Senator Kamala Harris got in on the action taking to Twitter to #clearthelists.
“On Facebook, before moving to Twitter, more than 20,000 teachers have received at least one gift, with membership over 125k on Facebook,” said Jones. “When we got to Twitter, a Texas country band picked it up and raised over 50k in about a week.”
That country band is Donahew who is using a GoFundMe campaign for the movement to raise funds and clear off teachers lists. In just five days, it generated more than $55,000 of its $75,000 goal.
While Jones didn’t expect the campaign to take off so quickly she says she wasn’t surprised since funding is a huge issue in educational policy. Teachers have joined from every state, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia, and then from Canada and the United Kingdom showing how global the issue is.
Movement doing more than filling classroom wishes
“Support a teacher” and cleartheists may be addressing a difficult issue, but for Jones they are also highlighting a positive one — how deeply we appreciate our teachers.
“The most surprising and gratifying part is seeing all the love, respect, and appreciation I’ve seen from teacher to teacher,” said Jones. “The public realizing that this is an issue worth taking seriously has also been extremely important to me.“
Thanks to the trending status of #clearthelists, complete strangers have been purchasing a few items or even cleaning off whole lists building a list of shocked and grateful teachers.
“Teachers that have been teaching for decades have told me over and over how this is the best thing they’ve seen happen to education in their careers,” Jones said. “I’ve seen people dealing with illnesses, heartache, death, divorce, all express how this movement has given them the drive to push through and that happiness and kindness are alive and well in this country and around the world.
“Also, first-year teachers feeling so much more prepared. When you come into this field, we usually don’t have a lot of money. We spend everything we need to have a great classroom environment, but with this campaign, first-year teachers have resources to rock their first year!”