St. Thomas ⎯ One St. Croix teacher is getting creative with gathering classroom supplies for the 2019-2020 academic school year. Joseph Bess, an 11th and 12th grade AP English teacher at Central High School launched a public wishlist on Amazon. While the practice may seem revolutionary, educators around the nation have been gaining public support for school supplies for over a decade.
The wishlist includes posters about diversity and inclusiveness and also includes decorative curtains made of kente African print. “I always put my class in an African theme,” Bess said. “I always use the kente cloth borders.” The wishlist includes an African themed pillow to compliment Bess’ ‘zen spot’ created for students, which includes a couch, stylish rugs, and plants for students to relax and read their favorite books.
His wishlist also includes pens, markers, a double-sided whiteboard for multi-class lessons and a new rolling chair. Bess began teaching at the Maya Angelou Public Charter School in Washington D.C., first teaching 10th-grade honors in 2011. Bess explained that over the course of his career, he has only taught in underserved school districts who are less privileged, adding that “it’s a part of social justice for me.”
At Central High, Bess’ students debated whether the Adventures of HuckleBerry Finn should continue being banned in public schools across the nation. They also protested and marched about the book, which ended with a lively debate about the novel’s purpose in schools and its place in pop culture as nationalism continues to rise in the U.S.
Over the course of his career, Bess has learned different ways teachers are empowered to get supplies and other things for their classrooms. One school where Bess taught, explained to teachers that they did not have funds for school supplies and could only give teachers their promised raises that year.
The school organized a workshop that focused on fundraising, grant writing and other ways of raising money for a classroom and various school programs. Students in his previous classes also learned about colonialism and social justice theory.
The public wishlist, first spotted on Amazon reads, “just a public school educator trying to get his classroom back in order after being without a class for over a year.”
Earlier this year, Bess was nationally recognized as an Achieve3000 PRO Educator, making him the first teacher in the territory to achieve the feat. Achieve3000 is a literacy instruction platform that pushes “innovation, and dedication to yield the most incredible literacy growth for each and every student,” the Department of Education said in a statement.
You can see the full wishlist for Joseph Bess’ 11th and 12th grade AP English here.