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School supply shopping with a pro: A teacher's tips on deals and what to buy

A fourth-grade teacher gives us the scoop with some helpful shopping tips when looking for crayons, markers, pencils, glue, pencil boxes, notebooks and more!

PORTLAND, Ore. — Back to school is on the brain for a lot of parents, kids, and teachers. As school gets ready to start,  binders, backpacks and back-to-school clothes are flying off the shelves.

Teachers are getting ready too. Fourth-grade teacher Sara Kemp let us tag along with her as she went school supply shopping. In the process, she gave some insider tips on finding deals and what parents should buy.

Kemp started her shopping trip in the dollar section.

"It's a steal," she laughed, as she searched for nametags.

Afterward, we were headed to the official school supply section.

Kemp went for the 25-cent notebooks over the 99-cent ones. She looks for the most inexpensive ones because she’s got a lot of them to buy.

"The best part of buying 30 of something is checking out with 30 of everything," she said with a chuckle.

RELATED: Watch: Kids react to back-to-school fashions of the past

She spends $300 on the basics to start the year and gets reimbursed. But often, she spends more, sometimes hundreds of dollars more out of her own pocket. That's why she's always looking for good deals.

Every year, she said she has to determine what supplies she can go without if necessary, then she tries to figure out another way to get them.

"What do I need to go on and get donated, or ask for? I don’t like doing that, but sometimes people like to help with that kind of stuff," she said.

RELATED: Survey: 43% of parents pressured to overspend on back-to-school shopping

Kemp works at a Title I school, which means many students there are low-income. That's why she is the one buying all those supplies, rather than parents.

She said every year, for holidays or special occasions, she asks her friends and family for classroom supplies instead of other gifts.

"You want kids to come to school and feel safe and be somewhere they want to be everyday," Kemp said.

School supply shopping tips for parents

Who better to give the inside scoop on school supply shopping than a teacher? We decided to get Kemp's take on items in the school supply aisle.


First, we wondered about crayons. Should parents go with brand-name or generic?

"I'd rather spend a couple more cents and get them like a nice box of Crayolas," Kemp said.

She said generic crayons seem to break a lot more.


When it comes to markers, she’s got a preference too. "I get the skinny markers because they're way cheaper," she said.


Of course kids have to have somewhere to put their supplies. Kemp said the pencil/pen boxes with a latch to keep the lid closed is the better option even though they’re a little more expensive. She said the ones without the latch can be a headache.

"If a kid drops it or something, it like pops open and they crack everywhere," Kemp said.


She said if parents are buying notebooks for elementary school kids, the only thing that matters is that they’re wide rule. "Some of them [kids] are writing so large," she said.


For glue, Kemp steers away from purple glue sticks. In her experience, they don’t work as well as the non-colored kind.


When it comes to pencils, we've heard the same thing from multiple teachers who say Ticonderoga is the way to go. They don't seem to break as much. "I wouldn't buy anything else," Kemp said.


If you’d like to help a teacher, you can visit a site called Donors Choose. It’s kind of a like a GoFundMe for teachers. Parents who want to help out can also ask their child's teacher what they need.

For Kemp, what really breaks the bank are those dry-erase markers because they're expensive and she always has to replace them.