In the latest issue of People magazine, substitute teacher John Mika has been recognized as an “everyday hero.” Just what exactly did he do? He helped over a thousand teachers make sure they had everything they need for their classrooms this Fall. In honor of Back to School and the many volunteers and teachers who are dedicated to our nation’s education, we wanted to feature John Mika’s story. Mika is an inspiration for all of us, read on to see how his desire to help teachers in his hometown of Buffalo transformed into a website and operation that helps teachers across Western New York.
In 2008 when retired autoworker Mika started his first day of school as a substitute teacher, he asked his students to take out pencils for an assignment and realized that only 3 of the 27 students in the classroom had pencils. After a quick look around, he realized many of the students didn’t have paper either, and that the teacher had purchased a box of pencils herself to distribute to her students. Mika was concerned about how these students could adequately learn and excel without even basic supplies.
He decided to do something about it. What if he could provide free supplies to teachers at the poorest schools instead of having them purchase them out of their own meager income? Within 3 years, Mika used a donated warehouse to launch Teacher’s Desk, a nonprofit office supply “store” that allows teachers from the region to shop for donated supplies, pencils, paper, glue and books – all for free. Since it first opened in October 2011, Mika has provided over $350,000 in school supplies to well over 1,000 teachers in Western New York.
Bravo John Mika and hats off to all of our teachers, many of whom are finishing up their first week of school!