BRANDON - For those preparing to decorate classrooms for the fast-approaching school year, the mad rush is nearly on.
Teachers' Helper, a shop in Brandon that caters to teachers and home-schoolers, is stocked and ready for the crowds. But, there's no need to wait, said Shearon Bailey, a retired teacher who has owned the store for eight years.
She has loaded the store with decorations that coincide with themes many of the local schools are using, such as Passport to Learning, Rock 'n Roll and Wild About Learning.
There are books parents can purchase to give their children a boost in reading and math, bulletin board decorations for elementary teachers and motivational signs for those teaching middle and high school.
"If you're not decorating a classroom, don't even come in August," Bailey said with a laugh. "It'll be a mad house."
The store, which has been around for 28 years, is one of only two in Hillsborough County catering specifically to teachers. "We get people coming over from Clearwater, up from Sarasota, from all over," said Bailey, who moved to Brandon 11 years ago to be closer to her grandchildren. She moved the store to its new location at 622 Oakfield Drive over Thanksgiving last year to have a more convenient location for those traveling from Tampa, she said.
Kalee Seifreit, a pre-school teacher from Child-Kare Solutions on the northern edge of Brandon, was in the shop browsing recently, as she does often. She was loaded down with little-people cut-outs that will go along with the "all about me" module she'll teach, hand-writing paper for the little ones that will be learning their letters and birthday crowns for those special occasions.
"I come here because I know they're always getting in something new," Seifreit said. "It's convenient and they have what I need."
Seifreit, like many teachers, spends money out of her own pocket to decorate her classroom. Bailey knows that and offers coupons, buy-one, get-one-free sales and other discounts to help teachers make the most of what they have to spend, she said.
Last year, classroom teachers in Hillsborough received $169.87 each to purchase supplies, according to the district. That stipend is sometimes supplemented by fundraisers from Parent Teacher Associations and other groups, Bailey said, but money is always tight.
In addition to classroom decorations and supplemental reading and mathematics guides, Teachers' Helper also stocks colorful pencils, stickers, bulletin board backgrounds and borders and a lamination machine for teachers looking to protect their purchases for re-use.
And this year, with the new location, Bailey is offering a classroom space for rent. The space can be used by home-school groups, managers looking to meet with their business teams, small church groups or other community needs.