Oklahoma Teacher Panhandles for Pencils

Teresa Danks, a third-grade teacher in Oklahoma, says she routinely spends thousands of dollars of her own money on school supplies for her classroom. (Photo: iravgustin/Shutterstock)

Can you imagine sending your child off to school only to be hit with a bill for $3,000 in school supplies? That's what it's like every year for Oklahoma resident Teresa Danks. Only it's not her child she's spending that money on.

Danks is a third-grade teacher in Oklahoma's public school system. She has been teaching since 1996 and, like most teachers, she's grown accustomed to spending her own money on classroom supplies. But as school budgets continue to tighten in Oklahoa, she says the problem has gotten significantly worse. In recent years, Danks says she has spent $2,000-$3,000 of her annual $35,000 salary to cover items like sandwich bags, yarn, beads, board games and other items that help her create lessons that engage students and keep them coming back for more.

"It all adds up week after week and month after month," Danks told her local Fox news affiliate.

All across the country, school boards are facing budget cuts that mean fewer supplies for the classroom and pay cuts for teachers. But the problem is even worse in Oklahoma, where a severe budget crisis forced many schools to alter their calendars last year so that schools were in session only four days per week.

With even more budget tightening in store for this year, Danks decided it was time to take things into her own hands and ask the public for help. She picked the most visible way she knew how: panhandling on a street corner. With a handmade sign and a smile, Danks stood on a Tulsa street corner and hoped for the best. She made $80 in about 20 minutes — which, ironically, is significantly more than she makes per hour while teaching.

As news of her panhandling circulated around the community, Danks heard from many parents. Her list of school supplies includes "any and all things crafty" such as cotton balls, pipe cleaners, silk flowers, buttons and safety pins, as well as bigger-ticket items like an electric burner, protractors, yoga balls and a small microwave.

A GoFundMe campaign has been started to help Danks outfit her classroom. But while she is grateful for the outpouring of support, she stressed that she would just like to see people donate supplies and funds to their own classrooms.