Bryant teacher's day made better with school supplies
OfficeMax • Company donates millions of dollars in pens, pencils and larger items to classrooms.
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A teacher's life often goes unheralded. Good teachers start their day long before the first bell and stay long after the last. Breaks turn into opportunities to catch up.

Bryant Middle School's Adrianna Jorgensen-Bryan found herself doing just that, spending time during first-period prep last week finishing grades that were due the next day. The eighth-grade language-arts teacher looked up to see an unexpected throng of students filing into her classroom, followed shortly by a big, bright orange box.

Through the nomination of her principal, Frances P. Battle, Jorgensen-Bryan was the winner of "A Day Made Better," an initiative by OfficeMax to help end the need for teacher-funded classrooms. The orange box contained a laminator, a camera and, most important, little necessities like pens and pencils that tend to go quickly in a school that supports both children in the Avenues and those who live in the homeless shelter.

While the supplies will help, Jorgensen-Bryan felt it was the intangible sentiment that meant the most.

"It was mostly so nice to know that someone noticed," she said. "That was really the best part of it. You work really hard, and sometimes it feels like you're up against a brick wall every day, and it means a lot to know someone sees it and values it.

"It makes such a difference to teachers just to hear the words 'You're doing a great job' and feel that appreciation."

According to a nationwide survey by Adopt a Classroom, 91 percent of teachers report spending money out-of-pocket for supplies, from little things like pens to larger items like food and hygienic products. In 2009-10, public-school teachers spent $1.33 billion.

This month marks the sixth year of "A Day Made Better," in which OfficeMax associates surprise 1,000 teachers in their classrooms with $1,000 each worth of school supplies — $1 million in all. OfficeMax consumers and business clients contributed nearly $900,000 in additional school supplies through this summer's in-store supply drive held at OfficeMax locations nationwide.

"OfficeMax is proud to be in its sixth year of 'A Day Made Better' because we want teachers and students nationwide to have the resources they need for success in the classroom," said Carolynn Brooks, vice president, chief diversity officer and president of the OfficeMax Charitable Foundation. "OfficeMax shoppers and business clients have joined the cause because they recognize that their contributions have a positive effect on the community, and ultimately contribute to an educated workforce."

For Jorgensen-Bryan, there was never a moment she felt strapped or questioned whether to offer supplies. She believes the additional spending is something good teachers do without thinking about it.

"It's such a great job because you have a whole person in front of you," she said. "I think teachers spend that much because they love them that much."

She specifically mentioned fellow Bryant teacher Michelle Stimpson, a previous winner of "A Day Made Better" and an ESL instructor at the school who often supports refugees.

"Some of these kids show up with nothing," Jorgensen-Bryan said. "All they want is the promise of the American Dream and what we told them they can have. That's what the great teachers try and do — embrace that role as a middle ground and show these kids that the dream really is possible."

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At a glance

Adrianna Jorgensen-Bryan is in her 10th year as a teacher at Bryant Middle School.

Since 2007, A Day Made Better and other OfficeMax Goodworks programs have contributed more than $18 million in grants and supplies to support more than 29,000 teachers and their classrooms.

Throughout October, OfficeMax also will accept monetary donations at the checkout counters of all its retail locations for AdoptAClassroom.org.