COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - First-year teachers in South Carolina make less than the national average, but soon-to-be graduates and new teachers are getting a helping hand to make sure they're ready for the classroom.
The Palmetto State Teacher’s Association started the Teacher Clothes Closet in 2014. The goal is to keep first-year teachers and recent graduates in the classroom. Association members say help with their wardrobe makes things just a little easier.
Breanna Saturday hopes to be a first grade teacher one day.
“My mom was a teacher and administrator so I’m following in her footsteps,” she says.
She got some extra help Wednesday with looking the part.
“I’m starting over from student attire to professional teaching attire,” she says.
College students like Saturday and new teachers stopped by for the Teacher Clothes Closet in Columbia.
“Teachers and especially student teachers don’t have the budget to buy expensive suits for interviews or teacher clothes because you have to look professional in the career,” Saturday says.
The clothes didn’t cost a dime: everything was donated.
“Teachers don’t get paid that much and students don’t have a lot of money so it’s a good resource to have to rely on,” USC student Marcus Jackson said.
The Teacher Clothes Closet had humble beginnings, but now it can be taken to any college or university in the state.
“A lot of them are overwhelmed by student loan debt,” Palmetto State Teachers Association Activities Director Toni Chewning said. “This is something we feel like takes one of those concerns away from them. One of those worries they may have with having that professional wear.”
According to the 2018-2019 Supply and Demand Report from the Center for Educator Recruitment, Retention and Advancement, more than 5,000 teachers left the classroom before the start of that school year and only 1,600 completed a South Carolina teacher education program.
The teacher association hopes these clothes help keep these graduates in the classroom.
“It’s going to impact their students in the future,” Chewning says. "It’s going to impact the schools they end up working in because they are going to be able to look and act like a professional.
The Teacher Clothes Closet is always looking for donations. For more information on how you can donate, contact the PSTA at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The next Teacher Clothes Closet event will be held some time in February at Clemson University.