Sweetwater Middle science and social studies teacher Wes Diers looks in a box of school supplies donated to his classroom by OfficeMax on Tuesday as sixth grader Marlon Ebb holds up a stack of notebooks. Diers was one of five teachers around Gwinnett County Public Schools to receive $1,000 worth of school supplies in an annual nationwide program. (Staff Photo: Keith Farner)
LAWRENCEVILLE — Wes Diers had a difficult September as car repair bills and vet costs for his four dogs piled up.
And as his classroom supplies began to run out, Diers admitted that in the last few days, he planned to search on Amazon.com for the cheapest school supplies he could find.
Even in the last couple of days, Diers, a science and social studies teacher at Sweetwater Middle, discussed with his students about a shortage of markers for laminated bubble sheets, and asked them to donate some to the classroom, if they could.
“I don’t think we’ll have that problem anymore,” he said. “That’s pretty awesome.”
That’s because of Tuesday morning’s visit from two OfficeMax employees, which caused an ordinarily talkative Diers to be speechless.
Chuck Thain, a district sales manager, and Julie Stofko, an account executive, delivered $1,000 worth of school supplies to Diers’ classroom in a large orange box after his principal, Georgann Eaton, nominated him recently for OfficeMax’ “A Day Made Better” program.”
“I don’t have any more money to spend,” said Diers, who is in his fourth year teaching, all at Sweetwater. “This is a godsend.”
In its seventh year, the nationwide program is designed to relieve and support teachers who spend their own money on much-needed classroom supplies.
“Sometimes they want to do something that’s creative, but don’t have the money to do it,” Thain said. “We’re just trying to alleviate that a little bit, and make sure that they know they’re important to society.”
Along with Diers, Gwinnett County Public Schools also had four other teachers honored on Tuesday. They were Emily Young of Bethesda Elementary, Dorothy Swindle of Peachtree Elementary, Ashley Coughlin of Harris Elementary and Yvonda Thomas of Alcova Elementary. A teacher at Rosebud Elementary will also be honored next week.
Diers said Eaton provides as much as she can within the Sweetwater budget, but this donation will allow him to reallocate funds for science lessons, for example, instead of worrying about markers.
“I try not to be as stingy as possible, but I know we don’t have a ton, and I know (the students) don’t have a ton,” Diers said. “We’re usually desperate. We usually send out another letter in December, and I know they’re strapped too, so I don’t expect much.”
While Sweetwater has plenty of teachers who go beyond the scope of the classroom, Eaton said Diers made summer school “come alive.” One day, she noticed Diers unloading boxes of supplies in the parking lot, which were full of things he bought or brought from home. And at the end of summer, Eaton said Diers did several things to make sure kids were ready for the start of the school year.
“He just takes care of business, and gets them whatever they need,” Eaton said.
Along with markers, a label maker, folders, organizers and erasers, the donation also included a Kindle Fire, a digital camera and an office chair. Diers already figured his sixth grade students could use the camera to record weather reports. And ironically, his class recently started a section on conserving energy, and renewable and non-renewable resources.
As Diers pulled out item by item out of the box, his students had wide eyes, and eventually helped him sort the supplies in the classroom. When Diers pulled out 150 markers, one student said that’s enough to last until next school year.
“It was fun to watch him today,” Eaton said. “This will be a good thing for him, a really good thing.”