This article is made possible by a partnership with the Marion County Commission on Youth. Indy with Kids is proud to support the work of MCCOY and help communicate information that is important for the youth of our community.

Written by Jacie Farris


Believe it or not, the start of another school year is around the corner, meaning families and youth are finding ways to make the next semester a successful one.

Educators, too, are preparing to meet the rigorous demands of another school year. As summer winds down, it is a good time to consider ways families, kids, and communities can support teachers and other school workers.

“Teachers are quite literally building and shaping our future,” said Kirk Smiley, principal director of advocacy and public partnerships for DonorsChoose.org. “They’re preparing the next generation of our workforce, and they’re also equipping students with the social-emotional skills they’ll need to have successful relationships and to be good citizens…teachers deserve our support, respect, and gratitude every day.”

DonorsChoose.org is a giving site that teachers can use to request resources they need to help their students and implement projects that will support their lessons.

“I think we’re seeing and hearing a lot more about how teachers often need more to be successful than they’re currently getting,” said Smiley. “With more stories about budget cuts, underpaid teachers, and supply shortages, people are starting to see the challenges that have been going on behind the scenes for decades. We feel fortunate that DonorsChoose.org has so many stories to share about what it looks like when people do support teachers. We just had our millionth classroom project funded this school year, and that’s a million times that our community told teachers, ‘We’ve got your back, and we believe in you.’”

He continued, saying that “education is the most important investment in our future. The communities and countries that realize the importance of education will see the dividends over a generation, but it’s definitely a long-term investment that our leaders need to be willing to see through.”

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, during the 2014-2015 school year, 94 percent of teachers had to use their own money for school supplies and were not reimbursed. Of these teachers, the average amount spent was $479.

Of course, the monetary setbacks are not all that teachers face. They also spend long hours grading papers and supporting extracurricular activities for their students. They also handle a variety of their students’ issues that stem from trauma, learning disabilities, mental health problems, difficult homes situations, and much more. Nevertheless, most teachers know that their work can be vital to the well-being and success of younger generations.

Liz Zander, a preschool teacher for Rainbow Ark Preschool at St. Andrew United Methodist Church, said that education can encourage students to be independent and confident, teach them right from wrong, allow them to express themselves, and give them opportunities to become contributing members of society.

“Most teachers are not in this for the money,” said Zander. “I love my students and want to instill in them a love for learning. I want them to have a wonderful and happy life. I want them to grow up to be a good person. I try and teach them to serve others. It’s not always about us or what we want. The treasures in life are not money, jewels, or gold. They are things you hold in your heart, like families; being thankful for the beauty around us; being kind, understanding, and loving towards others. There is so much more to life than money and stuff. The things we learn and the things we do for others are the only things we can take with us when we leave this life. I want them to have no regrets.”

Smiley said that a majority of the teachers he works with chose the profession because they wanted to make a difference. With that in mind, he said that “the best things that youth can do to support their teachers are simply to pay attention in class, engage in vibrant discussions, ask for help, and respect the sacrifices that many teachers make for their students.”

He continued, saying parents and community members can also find ways to support educators.

“Parents can support teachers simply by sharing an interest in what’s happening in the classroom,” Smiley said. “That may take the form of sending in some extra school supplies, volunteering in the classroom, making a small donation to the teacher’s DonorsChoose.org project, or even sending a note to the teacher when their child shares something exciting that happened at school. Community members can stand in support of their teachers in a number of ways, whether it’s volunteering in the classroom or school office, writing letters to the editor in support of local teachers, attending school plays and sporting events, or donating to classrooms. Teachers are shaping the future of the communities we all live in, and they need all the help and support they can get.”

As a teacher, Zander has a few suggestions for those interested in supporting educators. She recommends encouraging open communication, listening to teachers’ expertise, checking assignments and announcements, making time and space for children to learn and complete assignments, letting children find answers on their own, volunteering in the classroom, attending activities, and donating school items.

Above all, she said that “sometimes it’s just nice to know you are appreciated.”

Smiley, a ten-year Indianapolis resident and parent of two IPS students, said, “I know our city is fortunate to have so many capable and committed public school teachers. I’m proud that DonorsChoose.org can help support these teachers and empower them to be extraordinary educators, but it’s truly only possible thanks to the commitment of the community, both here in Indianapolis and across the nation. It’s inspiring to see so many residents choosing to make our city a better place by donating to projects that provide kids with what they need to learn.”

Since 2007, DonorsChoose.org has worked with thousands of Indianapolis teachers. In fact, in that time, 1,700 Indianapolis Public School teachers have received supplies from 18,000 donors. Individuals who are interested in donating to teachers in Indianapolis can click here.