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Top, Teacher Reuse Executive Director Shelly O'Donnell sifts through the game section in the educational warehouse. Puzzles, books and tennis balls are some of the items available for teachers at the reuse center. Above, Hays CISD Crossroads teacher Karen Cross browses inventory at the Teacher Reuse. The educational warehouse collects donated classroom items for any public or charter school teacher available free of charge.
Daily Record photo by Jessica L. James

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Teacher Reuse Executive Director Shelly O'Donnell showcases the copy paper section in the educational warehouse. O'Donnell said copy paper is a highly desired classroom item for educators.
Daily Record photo by Jessica L. James


Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Nonprofit helps teachers with classroom supplies

Spring cleaning is underway, and for a local group of retired educators, one man’s trash could be a teacher’s classroom treasure.

The Teacher Reuse, located at 1040 Highway 23, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to offsetting the economic burden of buying classroom supplies, an issue many teachers face at the beginning of each school year. The group collects and distributes donated classroom materials stored in an 850-square foot warehouse available free of charge for any public and charter school teacher. With many educators signing renewal contracts in April, the group held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Tuesday, hoping to spread awareness of the Teacher Reuse and attract more donations.

Organizers said since 2023, the TeacherReuse has saved educators around $175,000 in classroom expenses, with a goal to raise that number to $500,000 in the next year. In addition, teachers from 75 districts from across Texas have visited the warehouse, with one teacher coming from as far as Lubbock. Around 1200 educators have taken advantage of Teacher Reuse since the project began.

“If we can just chisel away at one little part of the burden on teachers,” said Teacher Reuse Executive Director and Founder Shelly O’Donnell. “Texas has the highest out-ofpocket costs (for teachers) in the nation. When you show up as a teacher to your classroom, you have 30 student desks and a teacher desk. Nothing else.”

O’Donnell, who is a retired teacher with 26 years' experience at Lockhart CISD, said she got the idea from a similar model implemented by a group of educators in Fort Worth. After making her pitch to collect school supplies for teachers in Lockhart, O’Donnell launched a smaller-scale project in 2020.

“They allowed me to do a trial run at the district level and it was so successful,” she said. “I just thought, ‘you know what? I'm going to retire and do this as a nonprofit and recruit people to help.’” The group has been at their current location since July 2023 after the City of San Marcos donated building space for the project. Since then, a volunteer staff of four retired educators have been dedicating time sorting and organizing binders, staplers, banners, copy paper, posters and various other classroom items.

“So, I'm a retired librarian,” said Hays CISD former librarian Nancy Turner. “What appealed to me about the whole concept is I'm also a master naturalist, and the whole recycling, reuse and the giving back instead of putting things in the trash is important to me.”

Organizers said beanbags and “alternative seating” are some of the most desired items teachers are seeking, but laminating, printing paper and color copy costs are a consistent concern. O’Donnell said future goals for the Teacher Reuse is partnering with a local business to provide free access to a laminator and color copy station.

“Teachers spend a lot of time and money to pay out of pocket to have things laminated or to print color copies that are not available at schools,” O’Donnell said. “Copy paper is another big one. If you run out of copy paper or use your allotment for the year, you have to buy that. Why isn’t the school paying for that?”

O’Donnell said data supports claims that teacher morale is at an all-time low. According to the 2022 Texas Teacher Poll from the Charles Butt Foundation, 77% of educators have considered leaving the profession.

“The morale is down, and there is more and more being put on teachers,” O’Donnell said. “If teachers were just teaching but they're not. They're social workers and disciplinarians. They're helping parents become better parents and we're constantly adding more and more to their plate.”

Karen Cross is a teacher at Hays CISD in the Crossroads program. She said she uses the Teacher Reuse and often donates herself, while encouraging others to visit the warehouse and consider taking inventory of their old supplies.

“Well, I always tell my coworkers, like they’ll be saying, ‘you know, we need this, we need that,’” Cross said. “I'm like ‘great, don't buy it. Do not buy it. Go to the Teacher Reuse. They'll save you money and you can donate.’ So, it kind of works in a circle. Then, you know, there are some job sites, too.”

O’Donell said plans are in motion to partner with H-E-B or another local business to offer a Teacher Reuse pop-up site to collect supplies in the near future.

“We definitely want more of the community to know what's going on and we want to let them know that we're here,” O’Donnell said. “We would appreciate you supporting teachers and we're here to take anything that you don’t want.”

For more information on the Teacher Reuse or to volunteer, visit the website theteacherreuse. org.

San Marcos Record

(512) 392-2458
P.O. Box 1109, San Marcos, TX 78666