$2,500 can go a long way, especially for educators. It’s no secret that teachers spend out-of-pocket money for their students; what might surprise many is how much. A recent study from the National School Supply and Equipment Association found 99 percent of instructors used an average of $500 of their own money to equip their classrooms. However, many educators report putting out much more than that for school necessities, with the amounts closer to $1,000 to $2,000 each year.

There are many great resources to help classroom instructors stretch their budget for classroom supplies. Edutopia compiled grassroots tips and links from educators around the nation on getting free supplies and organizations that help teachers get the goods they need. They include:

Another is the California Casualty $2,500 Academic Award.

Ohio kindergarten teacher Holly Thomas is the most recent recipient. Holly says she routinely spends between $1,000 and $1,500 per year on her classroom and students. The grant has enabled her to buy bins and containers for the 500 children’s books and other materials she has accumulated in her 6 years as a teacher. She is also using her California Casualty Academic Award to augment the science center she has created in her classroom and will use some of the funds to build six garden boxes for her students to plant and enjoy. Holly is teaming up with the nonprofit ToledoGrows for the project.



Holly, who is paying off student loans and covering tuition for her Master’s degree in Instruction and Curriculum, says having extra resources to purchase classroom needs as they arise has taken a lot of pressure off her finances and added to her well-being.

“We are repeatedly told we have to do more with less. With what we are expected to accomplish, with the resources available and the demands being put on us; my job is becoming more and more stressful. I try very hard to remind myself daily that I am molding the lives of five and six year olds”

Holly, urges instructors to take advantage of grant programs like the California Casualty Academic Award. She can now fund new ideas to help inspire her students. “It feels good to be supported by such amazing organizations as the NEA and California Casualty,” she said.

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Elaine Tam was the recipient of the California Casualty Academic Award in August 2013. Elaine is a California high school teacher who applied the grant towards a trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Forty eight students were able to tour the aquarium and enjoy the beautiful coastline in the area; many of them had never been to the ocean before. Elaine said, “As always, recognizing educators isn’t done nearly enough in society so this award is undoubtedly welcome.” She too urges educators to take a moment and apply.

Whether your need is for new technology, electronic tablets or traditional supplies of books, snacks, pencils and paper, do what Elaine and Holly did and let California Casualty pick up the tab with the $2,500 Academic Award. There are restrictions and official rules and the application can be found at www.calcasacademicaward.com.

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