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Southern Arizona teachers winning money for school supplies

2,500 teachers are getting $50 gift cards
Shauna Thomas, a third grade teacher at Harelson Elementary School in Tucson, picks out supplies for her classroom.
Posted at 10:30 PM, Sep 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-16 01:42:27-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Teachers often have to pay out of pocket to buy school supplies for their classrooms, sometimes totaling hundreds of dollars or more.

“I want my students to have a fun place to look at and things need to feel comfortable to make it feel like home, and so, it just kind of comes with the job,” said Angela Sieminski, a teacher at Harelson Elementary School in Tucson.

Now the community is coming together to make that an easier assignment for Southern Arizona teachers.

Founded in 2008, Tucson Values Teachers has been raising money for teachers to buy school supplies for more than a decade.

In the past TVT has partnered with bigger retail stores for its ‘Tucson Supplies Teachers’ campaign. This year, the organization is giving away $50 gift cards to Jonathan’s Educational Resources, a locally-owned teacher supply store.

Tucson Values Teachers CEO Andy Heinemann says a combination of foundations, businesses and individuals raised $125,000 for the program, allowing 2,500 teachers across Pima, Cochise and Santa Cruz counties to receive a $50 card.

“There were things that I have been wanting to buy for a while, but I spend so much money already, out of my pocket, I kind of put it on hold,” said Zeneida Vaquero, who drove up from Anza Trail School in Sahuarita, where she teaches eighth grade language arts. “We put so much heart into [teaching], we put our families aside sometimes and I just wish teachers were more appreciated.”

For Vaquero and other teachers shopping at Jonathan’s on Wednesday, the $50 card was worth more than just the cash value.

“I felt valued, I really did,” Vaquero said. “I felt like, ‘Wow, they’re taking the time to do this for teachers. You know, I feel appreciated.’”

“You know, just that little extra gratitude and appreciation to not dig so deep into our own wallets, it’s really nice,” Sieminski added.

Shauna Thomas, another third grade teacher at Harelson, echoed that gratitude.

“Being a teacher, you’re recognized all day long by your children,” she said. “They think you’re the greatest artist in the world. They think that you read the book the best. Their smiles and their pictures they bring you are recognition. But to actually have adults recognize you means so much to a teacher.”

Heinemann says about 2,000 teachers have been selected as winners so far with a total of 2,500 set to be chosen. The ‘Tucson Supplies Teachers’ campaign runs through Sept. 30.

You can learn more by visiting the Tucson Values Teachers website.