While most teachers didn’t go into education for the money, they shouldn’t have to empty their wallets just to do their jobs. Yet throughout the city, teachers are spending hundreds of dollars from their paychecks each year to buy basic classroom supplies.
That’s why the Queens Center Mall and the Queens Chronicle are taking part in a number of events, fund-raising drives and programs to give back to the educators who give so much of themselves.
“As the social heart and economic engine of the community, Queens Center saw a need and decided to fill it,” said Dawn Simon, marketing manager of the mall. “Together, with the help of the Queens Chronicle, we will raise awareness with events that will inform the public about the need for school supplies and assist the teachers in obtaining them.”
For the past four years, Simon has participated in the Principal for a Day program in borough schools where she gained first- hand knowledge of the challenges teachers face. “Providing adequate school supplies is one of those challenges,” she said.
The difficulties of teaching are also well known to Mark Weidler, president and publisher of the Queens Chronicle, since his mother, Chronicle founder and associate publisher Susan Merzon, was a New York City public school teacher.
“Giving back to the teachers who give so much to their students is an endeavor the Queens Chronicle is proud to be a part of,” he said. “Teachers are not shown the thanks they deserve often enough.”
In order to help teachers purchase the supplies they need, Queens Center will launch the Teachers Supply Closet in May during National Teacher Appreciation Week.
As part of the program, community members will be able to purchase gift cards for teachers at the mall’s guest services center.
For each gift card sold, Queens Center will donate $1, up to a maximum donation of $1,000. The donated money will be used to purchase additional gift cards for local teachers during next year’s Teacher Appreciation Week.
The Teachers Supply Closet gift cards can be used anywhere Visa debit cards are accepted and are sponsored by U.S. Bank.
The program is designed to help teachers defray some of their annual classroom expenses and is considered especially important since a recent study showed 89 percent of teachers spend their own money on instructional materials. On average, these teachers spend $458 during the school year.
In addition to the donations for each purchased card, Queens Center and the Chronicle will award gift cards to three winners of an essay contest for teachers.
Starting this week, public and private elementary and middle school teachers are encouraged to write an approximately 500- word essay describing the materials they would purchase with a $500 gift card and the lesson they would teach with those supplies. Educators are also asked to explain how that lesson would benefit their students.
Essays can be e-mailed to email@example.com until May 2nd. The first place winner will receive a $500 gift card, the second place winner will be awarded a $250 card and the third place winner will be given a $150 card.
The three winners of the essay contest will be announced at a pep rally and cheerleading competition for high school students at 4 p.m. on May 6th at the Queens Center food court. Prizes will be awarded to the top teams.
The pep rally will kick off National Teacher Appreciation Week and the Teachers Supply Closet program. All high school cheerleading teams are invited to attend, but teams must register in advance.
Another initiative the Queens Center Mall is sponsoring to show appreciation for teachers is the educators’ discount card. Starting in May, teachers, school and district employees can register at guest services to receive a complimentary card for shopping discounts and promotions throughout the year.
The mall’s parent company, Macerich, will also host supply drives to help teachers gather classroom supplies.
In addition, public and private schools as well as colleges and universities are invited to sell tickets for a special discount shopping day in December. All ticket-sale proceeds will be kept by the selling organization.
For more information about Teachers Supply Closet gift cards, educators’ discount cards, or the cheerleading competition, contact Terry Shalewitz at Queens Center, 718-592-3901. To submit an essay for the essay contest send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org at the Queens Chronicle.