If I Had $1,000 to Spend on My Classroom

life skills special education teachers teacher experience transition Apr 19, 2022

I’m going to give it to you straight right from the get-go: Some teachers will NEVER be given a budget to spend on their classroom, some will be given various amounts of money at various times with a strict timeline of when to spend it or what to spend it on, and some will have the luxury to buy whatever they need whenever they need it.

Now, I’m sure most of you fall somewhere in the middle of one of the scenarios above. Maybe you were recently given an amount of money to spend and are not sure how to spend it. You definitely want to buy exactly what your students’ need, but you also want to get the best bang for your buck. As educators, we TOTALLY get that!
No matter if you are given $100, $250, $500, $1,000, or $5,000 to spend, I’m going to break down what I’ve found to be valuable ways to ‘spend money’ in my transition program. My hope is this list will spark an idea or two for you!
Stipulations: This list assumes that all the basics are already provided by your school (i.e. lamination, velcro, pens, folders, fidgets, laundry detergent, transportation, paper, art supplies, envelopes, stamps, food for cooking class, etc).
*These items are not sponsored or affiliate links. I’m sharing my own personal opinions. 

Here are 7 ways to spend that money!


Uniforms and Laundry

If vocational experiences are a main focus of your program, then consider having your young adults wear the uniform of the site they are working at (in school or community based). If there isn’t a set uniform (or the site won’t lend you some extra uniforms), then use your money to purchase t-shirts or polos with your program/school logo. Buy a variety of sizes in a unisex cut, as well as typical work supplies, like aprons, gloves, hats, black shoes, black pants, etc. Be sure to purchase hangers and clothing stickers so students can label their shirt with their name (and you can take it off at the end of the year without permanently branding the shirt).
Now that you have uniform shirts, pants, etc you’ll need a place to wash and dry them! Purchase a washer/dryer. A stackable or side-by-side will do. If funds are dwindling, consider a scratch and dent store for the best rate on a new appliance!

Adaptive Bike or Swing

I’m clearly not a physical therapist or occupational therapist, but I know how much our adaptive swing and bike are LOVED at my current program.
Consult with your OT and PT for the best adaptive bike or adaptive swing (frame and swing) for your current (and future) students that will work best for their sensory and movement needs. Be sure to have a designated place (inside or outside) where equipment can be used.

Recreation Therapy Membership

Use the funds to purchase sessions with recreational therapists. If your allotment allows, try to buy enough sessions for a weekly visit for a semester or full school year. Your students will enjoy the meaningful release and you will support a local therapist. Recreational therapy options include yoga, movement, dance, music, art, equine, animal, sports, etc.

Fitness Center Memberships

Exercising at a fitness center is a great way to get out and about in the community multiple times a week. Find a local fitness center, ideally a location with a large enough fitness facility, lots of work-out options (like a gym, pool, track, etc), and shower facilities, and work to get a discounted monthly membership for each student. Offer to pay upfront for the whole school year and see if they will discount even more. You could use this membership 2-3 times a week, enjoy it when the weather is not-so-great, and students could use their memberships at night and on the weekend.
If the funds are renewable each year, this may be a great option to continue accessing the community.

Supplies to Start a Small Business


Any smart business person will tell you to turn $5 into $50 and then into $500. So, if you can find a business idea that will profit and meet the abilities and interest of your students, then investing your funds into supplies to generate money is a great idea. Ideally, you will spend a large portion of the initial money on the reusable supplies, like appliances, and the remaining money on consumable supplies to create your first few products. After you begin to sell the product, the sales profit should continue to fund the operation, and bring in some extra profits too.

Build a Snoezelen Room


If you landed a jackpot amount of funds to spend AND you have a small room available to convert, then reach out to providers of Snoezelen products for the ultimate sensory room (example and example). A Snoezelen room is different from a calming corner, it’s a separate space with lights, sound, aromas, motion, etc that can create a meaningful sensory experience for students. Supplies and construction will come at a cost, but the experience it will provide for years to come will likely be worth every single penny!




Last, but certainly not least, is to use the funds to save YOU time, energy, and money. If there is a curriculum that you have been eyeing, like my life skills curriculum, then use the money to purchase lesson materials. In the end, if you were going to buy it with your own money anyways and the funds can be spent to make your day-to-day easier, then it will be money well spent.
Remember, if you never win the teacher lottery by being given a large sum of money to spend at your discretion, remember that DonorsChoose is a great way for you to request supplies that you may need for your classroom. Also, consider reaching out to your booster program or seek out local grants to get what you need!

Good luck spending that cash!

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