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Teachers spend big money to outfit their classrooms, but a retired teacher aims to ease the burden

It’s not just parents and students who are hitting the back-to-school sales these days.

It’s teachers too—many of whom expect to spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars of their own money outfitting their classrooms with books, games, activities and decorations.

In fact, that’s why Gwen Vann, a retired Jeffco teacher launched the Teacher 2 Teacher Educators Consignment Sale last year and expects up to 600 customers this year.

The massive sale, running through the weekend at the Resource Area For Teaching office in Denver, offers all manner of teaching supplies at deep discounts.

Gwen Vann, a retired Jeffco teachers, spearheaded the Teacher 2 Teacher Educators Consignment Sale.
Gwen Vann, a retired Jeffco teachers, spearheaded the Teacher 2 Teacher Educators Consignment Sale.

On Thursday evening, during a time slot reserved for newly-minted teachers, Vann teared up as she watched several young women browse the long tables of merchandise.

“It brings me back…I know they don’t have money. They’re just getting out of school. They have debt,” she said. “It’s about sharing the wealth that we have.”

She said many parents don’t realize how much teachers spend to create the attractive, colorful classrooms their kids walk into every day.

One shopper on Thursday evening was second-year kindergarten teacher Linda Richardson, who loaded bright blue tote bags with rhyming and counting games and other hands-on activities.

As a first year teacher in Aurora last year, she spent $1,000 on classroom supplies, she said, and was able to write off only $250 through a tax deduction.

Richardson, who this year will move to Hodgkins Elementary in the Adams 50 district, said she appreciates the discounts at the sale, and also the fact that the items have been road-tested by veteran teachers.

“I found some great games for every single content area,” she said.

Jodi Katz, a retired Aurora teacher who volunteered at the sale on Thursday, likened the event to “a teacher’s Candyland.”

“We needed this 30 or 40 years ago,” she said, reminiscing about the annual $1,200 out-of-pocket expenditures she made to equip her classroom and support her students.

Besides helping young teachers like Richardson, Vann hopes the consignment sale is a boon for retired or grade-switching teachers who want to jettison unneeded supplies.

In fact, it was the garage sale she held after she retired that prompted the idea for the consignment sale. She sold two truckloads worth of supplies gathered over 30 years of teaching.

Young teachers flocked to the sale, some of them tweeting the news to their friends. Meanwhile, she knew that many of her retired friends had a wealth of teaching materials stashed in their basements and garages too.

It was a good fit for both groups, and the sale was born.

It has already garnered many fans. Teri Kimbell, a retired teacher who volunteered at the sale Thursday, said she enjoys connecting teachers with sought-after supplies.

“I watched some teachers walk in and go, ‘Oh my God, they have this,” she said. “I absolutely love it.”

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