08/24/2012 08:38 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Beyond the Basics: Teachers Provide in More Ways than You Might Think

Teachers do more than just teach. They nurture, mediate, console, praise, encourage and inspire. Teachers are educators, caregivers, friends, coaches, mentors and advisors. But what many people don't know is that teachers are also providers. In addition to shelling out their own money to provide school supplies for their students, they are buying items to meet basic needs -- from food and clothing to toilet paper and soap.

This week, released the results of a nationwide survey of over 1,100 K-12 teachers, of whom 67 percent reported buying food or snacks to meet the basic nutritional needs of their students.

It may not seem out of the ordinary for a teacher to spend money on pencils and paper (though arguably our schools should be supplying those, too) -- but the amount teachers invest to help their students goes far beyond, including things like toothbrushes, toilet paper, shoelaces and even alarm clocks.

Nearly 1 in 3 teachers must purchase toilet paper and soap because the schools where they teach cannot provide an adequate supply. Thirty percent of teachers have purchased clothing such as jackets, hats and gloves to keep their kids warm. Several teachers reported buying alarm clocks for students who were unable to make it to class on time because they come from households that can't provide the support and resources that students need to succeed in school.

Now, more than ever, teachers are coaching basic life skills and tackling major social issues such as homelessness, poverty and hunger.

It is becoming more common for teachers to support their students not just through academics, but through personal financial contributions; more than half of the teachers we surveyed said they have paid the cost of field trips to ensure that every student could participate. Even with all the pink slips, furloughs and salary reductions, teachers are still spending more than $1.3 billion - or about $1,000 per teacher -- every year out of their own pockets to provide school supplies and basic necessities for students, according to a previous report.

So what does this all mean? It's simple: teachers need our help.

We all know that a teacher is one of the most important people in a student's life, playing a critical factor in their success. But based on the results of this survey, in some instances a teacher is the most important person in a student's life. And your support is important to that teacher.

Visit to find out how you can help a teacher help his or her students succeed.