Three Questions is a new Next Stage series. Over the coming months, we will feature social good leaders from across the region who are partnering in new and innovative ways to create big community change.
1. Tell us about Classroom Central’s proudest accomplishment last year.
We are so proud of our accomplishments this past year. Despite the business interruption caused by the pandemic, Classroom Central has continued to thrive distributing more than $6.8 million in free supplies back into area classrooms. All in a year when our primary program, the Free Store, was shuttered due to the pandemic. We have had the opportunity to be innovative and creative and as a result have launched two new distribution channels—our subscription box service for beginning teachers as well as our online ordering platform that allows teachers to easily get the supplies they need.
Our proudest accomplishment this year, however, is the unveiling of our newly renovated facility, which serves as a hub for educators to not only receive the supplies their students need, but also provides opportunities to collaborate and share with peers, learn from community experts, and receive the holistic support they need and deserve. Additionally, the renovation will allow Classroom Central to optimize our operations and ultimately will enable us to distribute 40% more supplies to our region’s schools, teachers and students. Our goal for the renovation is for educators to truly feel valued and appreciated for the work they do, and our new space is a shining example of that. We all know that a great classroom teacher is the most important learning resource that a student can ever have. Classroom Central is pouring into our teachers—filling their cups—so that they may then pour more into their students. In a year fraught with staffing challenges in our local schools, I can’t think of a more important role for our organization.
2. What do you hope to change this year?
To celebrate the reopening of our Free Store and as we launch into our 20th anniversary, we took the opportunity to revise our mission statement as well as our brand to be more representative of the work that we do. Our new mission statement, Classroom Central fosters equity in education by providing teachers and students with the resources they need to succeed, along with our new tagline, “turning pencils into possibilities” does just that. While distributing school supplies will always be our core purpose, we have grown to provide so much more in the way of support for our educators. My hope is that we can garner even more support for our schools as the challenges they currently face seem monumental.
Teachers are leaving the profession in staggering numbers and the pipeline of people entering into the role doesn’t come close to filling the gaps. My hope is that by providing additional support to our educators, we ease some of their burden—and not just on their wallets, but on their time, mental and emotional states and help them to see how truly valued and important they are. We invite the community to join us in this effort, both in traditional (volunteering, contributing financially, donating materials) and non-traditional (providing content and professional development opportunities, gift certificates, discounts, etc.) for our educators. Afterall, where will we all be without our teachers?
3. How can Classroom Central actively support the needs or well-being of employees?
There has never been a more important time for employee engagement than the present moment. Many employees haven’t been inside of their workplaces for two years. Newly hired team members may have never met their coworkers in person. While we’ve all been productive as we’ve worked remotely, relationship building, camaraderie and teamwork have proved a bit more challenging. Classroom Central offers a fantastic way for employers to bring coworkers together for team building while serving the greater community good—both of which are directly connected to job satisfaction and employee well-being.
We have a multitude of projects—ranging from building backpacks and supply kits, to making flash cards and writing notes of encouragement for our teachers and students—that can be done in our facility or at a place of business. And, I can guarantee there isn’t a more fun volunteer experience than Classroom Central. While our team has more than 70 years of collective non-profit experience, most of us started our careers in the for-profit world. We know what’s important and we deliver a great experience to meet our partners’ goals and objectives. Our goal is to always create win-win-win engagements. A win for the partner equals a win for Classroom Central, but more importantly a win for our community!