Local teachers looking for support from community

A nationwide initiative has come to South Jersey with the hopes to #ClearTheList for Voorhees, Berlin, Gibbsboro teachers

As August nears its end, teachers are continuing to prepare for the beginning of the upcoming school year across the regional school district. Students will shortly be entering classrooms and hallways decorated and created to be fun, safe learning areas filled with the right supplies to make such learning possible.

As all teachers know, such an endeavor does not come without a price.

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Joining the national movement currently underway, which was originally created by elementary school teacher Courtney Jones in Texas, the trending hashtag #ClearTheList is sweeping the nation and reached South Jersey as teachers look for financial assistance from their local communities to ensure students have everything they need to succeed.

The idea is simple: Teachers can compile an Amazon wish list of books, supplies, materials and more they are looking for help in purchasing. As teachers commonly spend out of their pockets every school year to provide for their students, the effort hopes to take the burden off teachers and spread it more evenly throughout the community.

Around the Eastern Camden County Regional School District, a Facebook page titled “Support Teachers – Voorhees, Berlin, Gibbsboro area” run by an area resident aims to bring such assistance to teachers.

Lynne Cona helped start the page and movement locally, while Signal Hill Elementary School teacher Cari Cooper helped make fellow teachers across the three sending districts to Eastern Regional aware that they can compile their lists and get them on the Facebook page for support from the community.

Cooper said, thanks to Cona coming up with the idea for the page, being an active parent in the schools who’s had multiple kids go through Voorhees Township Public Schools, local teachers across Voorhees Township, Berlin Borough and Gibbsboro are receiving support from the community in providing materials and supplies.

“Teachers really give a lot of things to their students,” said Cooper. “I’d read somewhere that, across the course of their career, teachers give somewhere around $13,000 out of their own pocket to their classrooms. It’s all about the children, we want to help support them.”

Of course, school districts help provide teachers with supplies and materials each year as well, making education possible in the first place. However, this movement helps to supplement needs for teachers and students that might get overlooked or are created for a myriad of other reasons.

“Our buildings are nice and well put together and they provide a safe learning environment,” said Cooper. “But they have a much larger picture to focus on and put together, and teachers often put the smaller things together, like purchasing things for day-to-day lessons.”

Kelly Stroemel, a fourth-grade teacher entering her fifth year at Berlin Community School, is another teacher looking for support on the area Facebook page through the #ClearTheLists initiative. She says the nationwide movement is helping to show that local communities care about the education of their children, which is where all support from the community is geared.

“It always comes back to the students being the main priority and number one thing,” said Stroemel. “I think, even as a teachers, we don’t calculate how much we spend on our classrooms, I don’t even want to know.”

Stroemel’s personal list to benefit students in her classroom includes all books, as she hopes to stock the classroom library in her room to benefit students for years to come. Inspired by a movement that occurred last year at BCS that saw each elementary school student receive a book with a note from its donator to bring home, Stroemel hopes to continue the same idea, but have it benefit every student who comes through her doors year after year.

Karen Genty, a teacher at E.T. Hamilton Elementary School in Voorhees, says she is thankful for such an initiative because it can allow teachers to continue having activities and more interactive moments throughout the school year with readily available supplies and materials to further enhance learning for students.

“We want to keep the activities up-to-date, and nowadays its so much more student-centered. This makes sure that we have the items that we need,” said Genty.

As a kindergarten teacher who works primarily with 4 to 6 year olds, Genty is looking for mostly Legos and other hands-on activities for younger kids. Genty says the movement is allowing communities to support their own students.

“The ‘Clear The List’ campaign is a wonderful example of our community coming together to support its students, as well as its teachers,” said Genty.

The movement was first shared back in July, with Jones saying she started it for two reasons – teachers having an outlet to share ideas and supplies to support one another, but she says she also started it out of slight frustration.

“This movement shouldn’t exist, we shouldn’t need to do some things that we do and [have teachers] spend on average $460 per year,” said Jones. “But we do and that’s the reality, and I hope to really raise a collective voice … to where we can say we have an issue with this, in a kind and collective manner.”

Jones says she hopes to make progress on a legislative level to get more support for teachers. As it stands now though, Jones says the work of both the communities around teachers and some businesses that are “clearing entire lists” for them is a beacon of hope.

Those in the community who want to support teachers across South Jersey and clear their lists can visit the area’s Facebook page.

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