DANE COUNTY, Wis. — Teachers all over Wisconsin are spending time preparing before the school year begins.

What You Need To Know

  • School typically starts in the second half of August and early September in Wisconsin

  • Tons of prep work goes into the days before class begins

  • Teachers spend, on average, $500-1,000 per year on supplies

Maggie, who prefers to be identified by her first name for privacy reasons, is a music teacher. She’s starting at a new district this year. She’ll be teaching 4K through second grade in one building, and third grade through sixth grade in a separate building.

The excitement will keep building until the first day. She said she’s most looking forward to “getting 500 new best friends.”

When she’s not physically setting up the classroom, she’s working on materials at home.

“A lot of printing and laminating and [using the Cricut] at home,” she laughed. “Getting my planners ready for the school year.”

Maggie has never taught 4K or sixth grade before, so she’s been studying up on how best to work with those ages.

She said she was nervous about showing her classroom, knowing it’s kind of a mess. However, that’s the point. She, like just about every other teacher across the country, puts hours and hours into her space for her students.

“Since I’m brand new to this district, I’m just getting to know what’s available to me,” she said. “Mainly, what I’ve been doing is just clearing out stuff from the cabinets from the 80s and 90s. We need to be giving our students better.”

When asked how much she’s spent on her classroom, she didn’t even know what to say.

“I could not tell you,” Maggie said with a confounded look on her face. “My last school I walked in, and there was nothing. This new school was similar.”

The estimates change based on where you look, but studies suggest teachers spend $500-1,000 a year on supplies. That’s out of their own pocket. Sometimes, it’s paid for by the generosity of others.

“Just this rug was $2,000 that my family funded for me,” she said while sitting on a big music-themed rug. “A book is what, $14 each? I probably have 100 books.”

According to Educators for Excellence, 78% of teachers say low pay is a serious issue. Add the expectation of then buying much of their own supplies on top of that, and it could contribute to the teacher shortage right now.

The physical learning space is one thing. Being there for the kids is Maggie’s favorite part of the job.

“A lot of them, at least at my old school, didn’t have a consistent roof over their head, or food to eat,” she said. “[Looking forward to] the consistency, that they know that they’ll have clean clothes and a lunch, and just the excitement to see adults that care about them.”

For most schools around the state, the first day of class is toward the end of August and early September.