This third-grade teacher wasn’t afraid to go “begging for education.”
School is starting again in a few weeks, and teachers are preparing to get their classrooms ready before the back-to-school rush. Unfortunately, many of those teachers will be digging into their own pockets to purchase basic supplies for students—due to widespread spending cuts on both the state and federal level, specifically for K-12 schools.
But one Oklahoma teacher isn’t letting those cuts to Oklahoma’s education budget stand in her way, or in the way of her students’ success.
Teresa Danks, a third-grade public school teacher at Grimes Elementary School in Tulsa, Oklahoma, has grown accustomed to buying classroom staples, like disinfectant wipes, paint, and borders, with her own money, often at yard sales and thrift stores. Exasperated with having to use her $35,000 salary to purchase those essentials, which sometimes cost upwards of $2,000, Danks decided on a bold move. She drafted a sign and turned to panhandling for donations from the local community but also to get the message across to Oklahoma lawmakers—teachers need more support.
"My husband and I were just talking that morning and he kind of jokingly said, ‘You could always make a sign and go on the corner like the panhandlers,'" Danks told ABC News. "I said, 'You know what? I think I’m going to do that. That’s a great idea.'"
Danks, who has been teaching for 12 years, positioned herself on the street last Wednesday, July 19, near Route I-44 with a poster board that read: "Teacher needs school supplies! Anything helps. Thank you."
At the bottom of the sign was exactly what you’d expect of a classroom teacher—a heart and a smiley face.
"It just felt so scary," Danks said. "But it was a wonderful feeling to hear people being so supportive of teachers. The one that choked me up the most was a girl in her 20s who said, 'Teachers like you are the reason I’m alive today.'"
After about six minutes of standing at the busy highway intersection, she collected $55 in cash. Later, she posted a photo of herself on Facebook (that has since gone viral) and started a GoFundMe page, attracting the attention of many online and leading to thousands of dollars worth of donations.
In fact, as of today, Danks has raised nearly $15,000, and she was also gifted with a $3,000 check for school supplies from RetailMeNot on Good Morning America. Additional money received will be used to help other teachers in various classrooms.
I wanted to do something to make a difference," Danks said of her decision to panhandle. "I didn’t know it was going to make this big of a difference, but I’m glad it did.
According to a report by the nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Oklahoma is one of the most deep-cutting states in total funding per student. The state also ranks low in teacher pay compared to other states in the country. Danks, however, is hoping to change that by raising awareness, one act of kindness at a time.
"What started just for me to get supplies in my classroom and help my students has really grown much greater than myself," said Danks. "I definitely am going to be pushing forward this movement. I would love to see teachers across America standing out there with their signs, saying that we’re begging for education."
Finally, an Internet challenge we can all rally behind.
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If you’d like to pay it forward, visit DonorsChoose.org, which assists teachers with getting the resources they need, or visit Danks’ Facebook page titled "Begging for Education."