What happens when school supplies are in short supply?

Teachers make a difference.

Even with limited supplies. Even with shrinking budgets.

They still make a difference, Teri Howard says.

"Teachers are being asked to do more and more, and I'm proud to say have risen to the challenge," Howard, who teaches Title I Reading at Lincoln Elementary School in Ottawa, said.

Howard said teachers need supplies -- crayons, scissors, glue, pens, staplers, hole punches, folders -- to do their jobs and help students succeed.

But those supplies sometimes are difficult to come by Howard says, especially in a struggling economy.

"We make a difference," she said. "We take each child and differentiate the instruction so each may learn to the fullest of their potential."

Howard says school districts provide some of the necessary supplies -- copy paper more than anything else -- but teachers are responsible for coming up with the cash for extra supplies -- like construction paper, markers and paint, to name a few.

"The school gives a budget yearly to teachers to purchase classroom needs," she said. "It helps, of course, but with bigger class sizes and more curriculum, it stretches pretty thinly."

Howard said some teachers spend up to $400 on supplies yearly in order to help students meet annual yearly progress and other state assessment requirements.

"Students need to respond to learning by doing," Howard said. "Is it realistic in the business world to run a business without the supplies?"

West Franklin Superintendent Dotson Bradbury said although unfortunate, the reality is that teachers always have purchased extra supplies for their classrooms.

"We try and provide teachers with the supplies they need while understanding our budgets continue to be cut," Bradbury said. "Our teachers do an excellent job of not wasting supplies."

Bradbury added that it is difficult during tough economic times because each school principal has a building budget -- from teaching supplies to restroom toilet paper.

"Our teachers buy extras they want students to have out of their own personal funds," he said. "While not ideal, it's something classroom teachers have done for many years."

Howard wouldn't argue with this notion. She says young teachers typically spend less money on supplies because they make less money annually.

"I'm sure it's different for all teachers," she said. "I probably spend $400 a year, mostly on motivators, instructional materials and organizers."

In addition, Howard says usually she buys books, snacks, notebooks, baskets, tubs and special paints and markers for her students. All of these items help make her job easier and help students achieve more, she said.

"It is a rewarding and demanding job," she said. "I daresay, the corporate boss could not run his or her company with the same lack of supplies that we do and make the difference we make. But that's my opinion."

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