John Mika, a Catholic school graduate and substitute teacher in both urban and suburban Catholic schools, was shocked to learn that the location of the school had a profound effect on the amount of classroom supplies available for students.
One day while teaching in an urban school, John searched the teacher's desk for a tissue for a child with a runny nose. None were found in the entire classroom. John continued to experience examples of how a lack of resources in urban schools was impacting the children's ability to learn. He became more determined to find a way to ensure that every child received the same access to supplies, no matter where they attended school. This desire was the birth of Mika's store, The Teacher's Desk.
Since 2011, John, retired from General Motors, and his team of volunteers at The Teacher's Desk have distributed more than $15 million of school supplies to teachers from schools in need throughout Western New York. According to the organizations website, "A box of tissue is the very first item each of the 5,000 teachers that will shop this school year receives for their students in need."
The mission statement for the store reads: "The Teacher's Desk is the store where teachers shop free for students in need. We exist to show others the goodness of God in 3 specific ways: distribute free school supplies to students in need, encourage teachers and provide purpose through volunteerism."
Teachers at regional low-income schools — where at least 70 percent of students participate in the free-or-reduced lunch program — shop at The Teacher's Desk once a semester for new supplies, donated by the Kids in Need Foundation, NAEIR, Feed the Children and other organizations.
Because of higher than expected inventory this year, teachers from all Catholic schools were able to "shop for free" at The Teacher's Desk.
An art teacher from a Catholic school gushed, "Shopping at The Teacher's Desk was a wonderful experience; the store is full of caring staff who even allowed me to go into their stock room and look at their art materials. As an art teacher, I can use anything they have, they responded by letting me know I can reach out to them any time if there is something specific I need, which was unbelievably kind and generous! I hope more stores can get involved in the future, with donations of different supplies."
John equates his inventory with the story in the bible about the Loaves and the Fish, where Jesus blessed the food and fed the multitudes. John keeps the shelves of The Teacher's Desk stocked by networking with manufacturers and donors. He is quoted as saying "I'm a decent teacher, but I'm really good at getting stuff. I figured I could affect more lives this way."
John was certainly right there, to date teachers from over 230 schools from as far away as
Rochester have shopped at The Teacher's Desk for supplies that have impacted an estimated 130,000 schoolchildren. Congratulations to John and his volunteer staff for their great work!