Classroom Donation Totes (Great Way to Give Back During the School Year)

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Guest Post by reader, Danielle:

When my kids’ school opened 2 years ago, I expected they would need a few extra donations, being the first year and all. Since I’m a savvy and ‘Hip shopper’, it was no big deal for me to throw in a few extra pencils and notebooks. It wasn’t until I had a conversation with one of their teachers that I realized just how much teachers spend out of their own pockets on their students, my children.

According to a 2013 report, public school teachers spent $1.6 billion of their own money on classroom supplies during the 2012-2013 school year. That averages out to almost $500 per teacher out of pocket, while some reported spending more than $1000.


I have a tremendous amount of respect for teachers! As such, I like to go out of my way to show my support for them. These classroom donation totes are one of my favorite ways to help them out and make them feel appreciated (along with volunteering when I can, and keeping in communication with them about ways to help where it’s most needed.) I also like to resend all of these items in January when things start to run out.

Back To School Classroom Donation Totes

I have a small obsession with tote bins. Actually, with all forms of storage, really. Kids have so. much. STUFF! So when I find a smokin’ deal on totes (usually around New Years or back-to-school), I buy more than I should because you can never have too many, right?? If I need a million totes at home for my five kids, I’m willing to bet that teachers with 30 students could definitely use them as well.

As soon as we got our class assignments for the year, I sent out a quick email to ask what the most needed supplies were for each class, and customized the totes accordingly. Some classes go through insane amounts of tape, some of them need paper in all forms, and one teacher said she’s pretty sure the students eat the pencils with the way they go through them, haha!

Back To School Classroom Donation Totes

Here’s a list of what I’ve included in my totes:

Back To School Classroom Donation Totes

I even created a fun note to put inside these totes (and you all can print this too)…

Free Printable

Speaking of teachers and school supplies…

Amazon School ListTeachers: Did you know that you can easily create a “School List” on of specific school supplies and items needed for your classroom that you can then share with parents?

Parents: Did you know that you can search to see if your local school has “School Lists” registered with and shop from home?

*Find out more about how it works HERE.

Join The Discussion

Comments 34

  1. Rose

    I use Jumbo Ziplock Bags and write My Childs name and Class in front. I have been doing it ever since they started school and the teachers always thank me for the extra donations. This year I was able to do alot of the Penny Deals Hip2Save posted which I never even knew they did. So means more to donate 😊

  2. Lori Stevens

    This is an excellent idea! What a good example of using smart shopping to help others.

  3. Julie

    What a great gift idea! As an ESL teacher, we don’t receive any supplies from students we serve. I purchase all my supplies for my students every year. Average amount I spent $300 each year, but well worth every penny!

  4. Beth :)

    I’d love to have some of these supplies! As a first grade teacher, I spend so much money out of pocket on school supplies :/

  5. Amer0317

    This is seriously one of the nicest things ever! Every year I spend lots of money on supplies and making my room ready and cozy. My district has been in a pay freeze for 7 years. I have never gotten a raise, and pay more for insurance than ever before. Thank you for caring. Thank you for asking. I truly love my job and students and want them to have the best experience which is why I do what I do. 💜 However, being appreciated by parents is amazing!!

  6. Christy

    As a teacher, thank you! The younger the grade I taught, the more I would seem to spend! All supplies are appreciated (more than you know), but the thing that I would have to go out and buy the most was pencils. I swear my students would eat them. Just some food for thought!

  7. tipaye

    Cute (and generous) idea! 🙂

  8. Jolene

    I love this idea and will be blessing my daughter’s school this year. Thanks so much for sharing!!

  9. Patty

    Remember you don’t have to be a current parent to help out. My daughter is no longer school age but I donate to my friends who are teachers and they are so appreciative.
    I would agree that pencils are the most sought after item and it’s so easy to find good deals on them

  10. Leilani

    I did this every year at the beginning of the school and then again at Christmas time with a gift card. The kids teacher’s always was thankful. My youngest is 20 now and I still buy supplies and donate them to classrooms because of how much the teacher’s appreciated the supplies.

  11. Laura

    This s such an awesome idea! I can’t wait till my 1 year old starts school so I can copy this!!! When my nephew was younger I always bought his school supplies and throughout the year his teacher would give extra credit for kids who brought much needed supplies. :/

  12. art

    Awesome! Another idea- We give $50 visa gift cards (that way they can use at whatever store they want) to each teacher at the beginning of the year and in January. We also tell the teachers to send a note if they, are another kid in class, need anything. We have several tubs filled with school stuff, jackets, etc so it’s always ready.

    We don’t give teacher appreciation or holiday or whatever gifts throughout the year-end and simply can’t volunteer for every little thing- so it’s our way of giving back.

  13. art

    We also take sooooo many books as a free for all to all the teachers at their schools. Their all from garage sales and such, super cheap.

  14. Elisa

    From all school teaches, a big thank you for being considerate. Yes, I spend between $500-$1000 a year on my students Including buying supplies for students who don’t bring in supplies for one reason or another.

  15. MommySpendsLess

    I’d like to do something like this but…
    We don’t find out which class our daughter will be in until Open House, which is usually a couple days before the first day of school. The last two years we’ve bought everything on the supply list on the school’s website for my daughter’s grade level and grabbed a few extra of anything we saw a great deal on. In Kindergarten I even brought most of it to Open House since she was so small and I didn’t want her to have to try to carry everything the first couple days. At Open House her teachers had lists that were different than the grade level list (which left me with an evening or two to scramble for anything we hadn’t bought) and they didn’t seem to want or need half of what I’d already gotten or anything extra. She’s in a public school and I know at least a small percentage of the student population lives in pay-by-the-week motels so I’m really not sure what’s going on. Maybe knowing that some of the population can’t afford donations the principal won’t let them ask for anything…? I’d be happy to help, especially with all the great deals but I’m not eager to throw away money either…

  16. Leah

    I am a teacher at a high school serving a very large population of students coming from economically disadvantaged homes. I buy school supplies every year for my students. I also buy them granola bars and other snacks that they can ask for when they did not get to eat breakfast that day. ANY donation to a classroom/school is so appreciated. Tissues are my biggest need as the school does not provide these but they really are a necessity! A close second is pens and pencils.

    • Lori G

      I am in agreement about snacks and tissues! Although I teach Kindergarten in an upper middle class district, I am constantly buying goldfish, granola bars, water bottles, etc. for kids who do not bring snack. Quality tissues and paper towels are the next biggest expenditures for me!

  17. Dd

    It is utterly despicable that teachers who are so underpaid in the first place are expected to spend this much money out of pocket per year on basic learning supplies while schools and admins spend big bucks (aka our tax money) on technology and building upgrades that our children never directly benefit from. While it’s great to see individual parents help out, why not spend that time writing letters to your school board on behalf of the teachers who are expected to pay for the only things kids really need to demonstrate their learning and be comfortable doing so . Paper, pencils, and books. And the schools should be providing cleaning supplies. Utterly disgusting to me that schools get away with this. Teachers are saints.

    • Did

      Teachers are saints. And my extremely well funded school district doesn’t provide Kleenex either. And most teachers pay for it and bring it to keep the kids comfortable and the environment sanitary.

      There is something very wrong with this system.

    • Dawn

      Lol, don’t get me started. We all know teachers do more for everyone’s future than anyone else and get paid the worst. Our district just opened up 5 district office positions at 100+K EACH and are re-building 2 new schools, yet also cannot “afford” Kleenex/generic tissue, germ-x, pencils, crayons and other necessary items for their teachers classrooms! As a teacher I didn’t want to use my allotted classroom district spending money (which was a whopping $300 back in 1999) because i could get crayons and pencils cheaper buying them myself at the store during Back to School sales. Messed up.

  18. Kelbie

    This is so incredibly thoughtful! Thank you for doing this for us educators! Another thing that can be super helpful to donate is boxes of tissues and hand sanitizer with a pump. Thank you all! ♡♡♡

  19. Dana Miller

    That’s awesome! That means so much to teachers!

  20. Susie

    My kids are young adults now, but I always did the room mom thing when they were in elementary school which was an eye opening experience. School supplies are needed throughout the year, but also remember to send an extra dollar or two when a permission slip comes home for a field trip that requires an admission fee. It’s amazing how many parents would sign for their child to go, but send no money. The teacher and a few of us moms would always pay for those kids because you can’t tell an elementary school kid they can’t go with everyone else because your parents didn’t pay, that would make the child feel bad and it isn’t their fault.

  21. Jessica

    Thanks for posting this. I don’t even have children, but a local high school teacher posted her list on Amazon. I’m going to use the wishlist for what she needs, but purchase everything from the stores. I’ll drop it off this week!

    • Susan

      I was wondering if this was an ok thing to do. My LO is still tiny, so a few more years till she goes to school. I’d love to make a donation to the local elementary school, but wasn’t sure if it would seem strange or inappropriate since I have no school aged children yet.

      Anyone who donates, but doesn’t have school aged children, how do you go about your donations? Do you just take it to the front office and they can dispense the supplies as needed? Thanks for any input

      • Amer0317

        That would be wonderful and thoughtful! You could just drop it off in the office. You could also pick a grade level and just say “for the first grade teachers. From a future parent!” As a teacher, thank you!!!

  22. Sarah

    Omg I luv the idea and totes excited note!! Thanks

  23. cleo

    I am equally crazy about this idea and dont have school age children! But i am going to add bargain items to my lists each week…keep them in my bin and play “fairy godmother” to those saints of teachers that teach in the more poverty strciken areas of my community. Just need a bit of advice? Do i drop them off at the office? or for the appropriate teacher? I want to make sure they get to the right place?

  24. Mary Lou Miller

    cleo: I would take them to the office…labeled for the teacher or grade level you wish to receive them.

  25. Jessie

    How big are the totes? Thanks!

    • Rebecca

      Jessie, I don’t know how big the totes are pictured in this posts, but I recently put together some for teachers this year and used these from Office Depot/Max: (they are 10 13/16″H x 14 1/8″W x 18″D which I think is about 35 qt.) It seems plenty big to hold what I have accumulated for them: several packs of glue sticks, 3 packs of printer paper, 2 boxes of tissues, hand sanitizer, pens, pencils, large pack of sharpies, dry erase markers, post its. The box looks very similar to the one pictured here. Hope this helps!

  26. Kristen

    My son spent his K-1st month of 3rd in public school. We had just moved to this state when he started and we became aware that there is a large population of children that don’t eat on the weekends. I had already been “called” to donate as much as we could budget in….after tips from this site I was able to donate SO MUCH MORE! I was able to bring many food items in for the children to take home on weekends (there is a program you make the donations to) I was able to keep donations flowing to the teachers as well! I have been blessed with the ability to accompany my sons’ class on every field trip. I always take as many pictures of all the children as I can, give copies to the parents and try to make a collage or something similar for the classroom. At the end of the year, I gave the teachers a tissue box that I made with a collage of the entire year with a dozen or so boxes of tissues for next year. They really seemed to like it!
    Along with snacks, I also try to supply them with meals the children can eat if they forget their lunch (which my son has done several times!) otherwise the teacher would be buying it for them. For the teachers doing drop off in the morning I would try to bring them all coffee when it was raining or really cold. I also always remembered the secretary! She was especially important to me…I thanked her throughout the year with a small card, $5 gift certificate from Target, etc….for being such an awesome “bulldog” at the front! She knew every person that came through the door, and if she didn’t, she would find out immediately!
    Sadly, my son’s 3rd grade teacher was not…..well, we are addressing it all with the board…so we had to move him to a very small, affordable private school where I can do the same things but on a smaller scale (I tend to go overboard). Sorry for the length!

  27. Tridell Miller

    Hello my name is Tridell Miller representing the non profit called Second Chance Quest we are looking for donations for our summer mentoring program it is a program to mentor children of incarcerated parents . Our Program is going to focus on teaching the kids entrepreneurship we are in need of donations to help make our program a success you can reach me at 443-814-3222 Thank you

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