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What Hall teachers plan to buy with $100 gift cards from district
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Chestatee High student Gabby Galvez, 17, holds a sign Wednesday, August 1, 2018 in the hallway at the school as students and parents meet teachers and find classrooms in preparation for the upcoming school year during open house.

It’s no secret teachers often spend their own money on school supplies and resources for students.

That’s why the Hall County School District has provided every teacher — about 1,900 in all — with a $100 gift card to purchase supplies for their classroom this school year.

“Teachers are by nature some of the most giving people I’ve ever met in my life,” Hall County School District Superintendent Will Schofield said.

He added there a very few teachers who don’t dip into their own pockets to support the classroom needs of their students each year.

Even the U.S. Congress recognizes this truth.

Just last year, when debating and later approving a $1.5 trillion tax reform bill, lawmakers kept a $250 deduction in place for teachers to claim to help offset the cost of purchasing classroom supplies.

From pencil sharpeners and three-hole punchers to classroom decorations and musical instruments for band programs, several teachers told The Times last year that it’s not hard to spend more than the tax deduction or gift card allows.

The Board of Education budgeted about $200,000 for the gift cards when it approved the 2019 fiscal year budget in June.

Schofield said the district had been able to provide some financial support for teachers to buy school supplies on a few occasions during his 13-year tenure, and administration keeps track of receipts to ensure the money is being spent as it was intended.

“It’s always very well received,” Schofield added.

At an open house event last week, teachers from Chestatee High School spoke about how they would use this money.

“It certainly helps a lot,” said Kit Walker, who teaches Spanish and English.

Though he’s acquired a few necessities, Walker said he would sit on the money for a while to gauge and determine classroom needs as the school year gets underway.

JK Southerland, a special education teacher, said she had already used her gift card to buy a cart to tote her supplies from classroom to classroom.

Southerland said she “always” spends more than the gift card or tax deduction cap, but any help from the school district is a “good start.”

Kate Landrum, an Advanced Placement biology teacher, said that many teachers become distressed over out-of-pocket expenses during the school year.

“I love having it,” she said of the gift card that will allow her to purchase miscellaneous materials for her science lab classes. It’s these resources that allow her to develop teamwork among students through class projects, she said.

“The money is very handy,” said Sam Snider, an environmental science teacher, who will use a portion of the gift card to purchase flash cards and loads of chalk.

The chalk is used to draw outlines of the heart and nervous system on pavement or another hard surface on the school’s grounds, which gives students a new way to learn and “keeps them active,” Snider said.

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