Dr. Maria Vazquez, Superintendent of Orange County Public Schools talks with Jane Thompson to discuss the amazing partnership between both organizations since 1998.


Dr. Maria Vazquez: Hello everyone. I’m Maria Vazquez, Superintendent of Orange County Public Schools. I have another new guest joining us from Mondays with Maria. She is Jane Thompson, the President of A Gift for Teaching. A dedicated partner since 1998 that provides educational resources for our teachers and our students. Jane, thank you so much for joining me this morning.

Jane Thompson: Maria, it’s such a pleasure to be here. Thank you for having me.

Dr. Maria Vazquez: I am so grateful for our partnership. We have very similar goals when it comes to helping our teachers and supporting our students. In case our viewers are not familiar with A Gift for Teaching, tell us about your organization.

Jane Thompson: I would love to. We are Central Florida’s primary provider of free school supplies and resources for teachers and their students in Orange and Osceola counties. In fact, we are on the cusp of having distributed $160 million worth of school supplies since we were founded. And.

Dr. Maria Vazquez: Oh, my, my gosh.

Jane Thompson: And, this is the best part that is because 365,000 times teachers shopped for free. So it’s really, it’s incredible. You know, our mission is really all about providing teachers with the resources they need to inspire our future leaders. And, you know our vision is really that every student in central Florida would have access to the tools and experiences they need to succeed.

Dr. Maria Vazquez: So teachers have access for A Gift for Teaching. Could you tell us, how does that work?

Jane Thompson: I would love to. So the good news is every single school in Orange County public school system is eligible to shop for free on a monthly basis, but it does depend on the eligibility of the school. So for teachers working at the highest need schools in Orange County, every single teacher, media specialist, guidance counselor have access to shop one of three ways once a month for the entire school year. So the first way is they can visit our teacher, free supply store down on John Young Parkway

Dr. Maria Vazquez: Which is adorable Okay, I absolutely love it.

Jane Thompson: They can also visit our pop-up free store, which we call Pencil Boy Express, the mobile, free store. He travels around to the sort of outlying areas of Orange County and shows up at different campuses every week. And then the third way teachers can shop is they can also place an online order for curbside pickup. So we try and make it as simple as possible for our teachers to, to have different ways to access us.

Dr. Maria Vazquez:
Well, that’s just an incredible service and the fact that they can come and shop in person, which like I said, I love the store. They can put in an online order and just have it dropped off. Yeah, is great. I love it. So tell us about the new programs and initiatives that you have in store.

Jane Thompson: So the first new exciting one is, we have a new program and it’s called the New Teacher Launch Box. And it’s a pilot program. It’s a subscription service that Walt Disney World Resort has partnered with us to do.

Dr. Maria Vazquez: Another great partner.

Jane Thompson: Yes. And that means that 500, 1st year teachers are enrolled in this subscription service and we just debuted it in January and they all get delivered to them a quarterly box that’s filled with classroom sets of school supplies and incentives and resources you know. The things they got so excited about was copy paper and dry erase markers and Lysol wipes and, but there’s also all kinds of other great things. So, those 500 teachers will be enrolled in this program for a whole year. And you know, our goal is really to do anything we can to support brand new teachers who are having to set up a whole new classroom from scratch and to make it a more engaging learning environment. So that’s our first program and it’s going well. So we have an app for teachers now, and it’s called My AGFT+.

Jane Thompson: And teachers can download the app and through the app they can make an appointment to come and shop in the free store. They can make an appointment to go to Pencil Boy Express, place an order online for pickup. And you know, we just, I think we’ve all learned through the pandemic how much we can do through our phones And how much time it can save in our lives. Teachers are the busiest people on the planet. Absolutely. But, my favorite thing has been watching teachers shopping in the store and they come in, when they walk in the app tells us teachers are here. They just start shopping. They just scan things as they’re shopping. It’s been wildly successful.

Dr. Maria Vazquez: Oh my gosh. I am just thrilled about those two initiatives. Oh my gosh. And I’m sure our teachers are as well. So how can someone get involved if they are interested?

Jane Thompson: Well, I have to say we have a fantastic website and we have social media. So if you visit our website or follow our social media at agiftforteaching.org, you can learn everything you would need to know about volunteer opportunities, the kinds of product drives or donations that we need the most or hopefully even choose to invest in supporting one of the programs that we offer. One of the things I always tell people is that by second semester, 75% of teachers tell us that their kids have run out of school supplies and their families certainly can’t afford it. So we are there all year, all school year to support teachers and we’re open all year round. So we need product and we need helping hands. So please visit agiftforteaching.org.

Dr. Maria Vazquez: Such an incredible organization and what a great cause supporting our teachers. As I said, thank you so much for all you in a gift of teaching are doing for our teachers, our students, and our community. Thank you. Thank you all for watching. As we promised, we will continue to keep you updated on all the news and information you need to know right here. I’ll see you next week.

Original article published in May 01, 2023 in Orange County Public Schools Newsroom.

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