Supply and Demand
Making it easier, and less expensive, for teachers to get school supplies
In the forever-ongoing debate about Nevada’s education spending, the cost of school supplies — and the fact that teachers often pay for them out of pocket — has become an often-used data point. But, somewhat below the public radar, the nonprofit Public Education Foundation has, since 2002, used its Teacher Exchange to get classroom supplies into the hands of teachers.
With a $25 donation, public-school teachers receive 500 points to spend as currency at the Exchange, often getting hundreds of dollars in value. They can load up on the generics, such as writing utensils, paper, binders, and tape, or more offbeat things like educational games, playing cards and dice donated by casinos, cleaning supplies, and backpacks. With school about to begin, there’s probably a teacher shopping its clean, organized aisles right now. Such as Brooke Blackard, a first-grade teacher at Cambeiro Elementary, says that the supplies she picked up at the Exchange on a recent day would have cost her a lot more at Walmart or Target.
Originally created to be a reuse and repurpose program for teachers, its vision grew when Tim McCubbin took it over in 2011. He quickly began working with the Kids In Need Foundation, a nonprofit working to help students in poverty on a national scale; the Teacher Exchange became one of its 40 resource centers around the country. Through this connection, Target, a large backer of KINF, became a major supporter of the Teacher Exchange, as well. In addition, many casinos have pitched in, including Caesars Foundation and Caesars Entertainment, MGM, Sands properties, Wynn properties, and Station Casinos. Roughly 70 percent of the items passed on to teachers come from large donations from these big names.
Part of the success of the Teacher Exchange is due simply to being in Las Vegas. With so many trade shows and conventions coming through, it’s easier to meet people interested in helping out. “No one else in the world has access to that like we do in Las Vegas,” McCubbin says.
For example: During Education Expo 2017, a man from Colorado said he had some supplies he wanted to contribute. A few pallets’ worth, he said. It took him most of the year to sort out his business affairs, and when he did, McCubbin and his team were caught by surprise: “a few” pallets turned out to be 47, requiring two freight trucks to bring them all the way from Wahoo, Nebraska, a town that McCubbin says he never knew existed. Both trucks made their way to Las Vegas just before New Year’s Day, containing all manner of educational supplies from the traditional staples to exciting learning games. Teachers began helping themselves this summer.
And with Clark County School District spanning 7,910 square miles — a space larger than each of the six smallest states — covering the territory becomes a real challenge. So, in addition to the storefront, located across from UNLV, teachers who sign up can access an online store. And what about schools outside of Las Vegas — in towns like Goodsprings, Sandy Valley, and Moapa? That’s where the Teacher Exchange Express van comes in
“We touch approximately 95 percent of the public schools in Southern Nevada,” McCubbin says. “While we don’t always get to see the end with the student, teachers are really good about sending pictures showing what they do with what they pick up.”