The Teachers' Closet provides free school supplies to educators year-round

OSHKOSH, Wis. (WBAY) - Many teachers find themselves spending hundreds of dollars a year on supplies for their classrooms. A non-profit organization in Oshkosh looks to ease that burden.

For the last eight years, the Teachers’ Closet has helped classrooms stay stocked.

“Everyone’s all ‘Thank you, thank you. I don’t know what I would’ve done,’” said Teachers’ Closet Director Kay Kuenzl-Stenerson.

The volunteer-run organization based at Oshkosh’s Peace Lutheran Church provides free school supplies to teachers year-round.

“Just the little miscellaneous things that add up really quickly when you go to Target or Walmart,” said Tipler Middle School teacher Jeff Erdmann, who visited for the first time Thursday.

“Every new teacher I’m like, ‘Have you heard about the Teacher’s Closet? You need to make sure you know about that,’” said Valley Christian teacher Andy Barber.

Kuenzl-Stenerson was a teacher for 38 years and knows exactly how costly those supplies can be.

“I spent about $1,000 a year,” said Kuenzl-Stenerson.

She believes most teachers spend anywhere from $500 to $1,000 annually on supplies.

The Teacher’s Closet isn’t just for those who work for non-profit schools in and around Oshkosh, it’s also for any teachers who live in the area.

“I was hired initially as a long-term sub,” said Barber. “So I came in in the middle of the year, and there was just so much that was overwhelming, picking up where somebody else left off and didn’t have any of my own things. So being able to come in right away and get some support is so helpful.”

It doesn’t just help teachers, it’s for students, too.

“Oshkosh has a 42 percent poverty rate,” said Kuenzl-Stenerson. “So those kids aren’t coming to school with those supplies, and they need to get them from somewhere.”

“It’s a really nice, humanitarian thing to do for our community,” said Erdmann. “I think it really represents the fact we’re in it for school and to help the kids and education.”

An education that can only expand when teachers have access to what they need for their students.

“If you want variety in your instruction and if you want teachers to use creative ways to get through to your kids and not just worksheets for everything, the more supplies and support they have access to, the better they can do with their classes,” said Barber.

Teachers Closet accepts new and gently used school supplies as well as monetary donations. Donations can be dropped off at the church which is at 240 W 9th Ave, Oshkosh, WI. Money can also be sent to that address.

The organization is also hosting a brat fundraiser at the Oshkosh Festival Foods store on Sept. 13.