For a profession that can be obsessive about reusing, recycling and rescuing random items for the classroom, Mary Loung's brainchild seems like such a natural fit, you'd wonder why no one had thought of it earlier.
Educycle, a kind of Craigslist for teachers, helps them sell or pass along usable school materials and shop for ones they need. The 2-month-old site also enables businesses to donate surplus equipment to schools.
Loung, a second-grade teacher in Millbrae, hopes that Educycle will help teachers find affordable supplies, recoup a bit of the money they spend equipping their classrooms and relieve the overflow in teachers' garages.
"We become hoarders," said Loung. "Don't throw away those toilet paper rolls! I might need it." She even has her friends stashing away items for her as well as collecting the usual box tops for redemption.
Educators often pay out of their own pockets for classroom equipment and materials. Loung estimates she spent about $350 a year when she began teaching 10 years ago. Although the school PTA offered each teacher $100 for supplies, it didn't cover the expenses. She did spend less as the years passed, but the outlay increased when she was assigned to teach a different grade. What was purchased one year would get tossed or stuffed into boxes the next.
Educycle, at www.educycle.com, requires users to register as a teacher, school, district or business. Transactions take place between buyers and sellers, so Loung posts the standard warnings about dealing with strangers. Messages filter through the website, so Educycle has a record of them. She advises pickups to take place at schools or businesses.
There is no fee, and Educycle doesn't take a cut. For now, it's a labor of love for Loung, who has taken off a year from teaching to launch her project.
She requires sellers to certify that they own any items they are selling, so the site doesn't become a conduit for selling school district-owned material. "There's no clear-cut way I can enforce it," she said. But districts often stamp material with the name of the district for identification.
The idea for Educycle sprouted two years ago, when Loung cringed as her Millbrae school dumped loads of workbooks, reading series, art supplies, stickers and more just before the school was to be remodeled. The Lomita Park elementary teachers had to pack and move everything into limited storage space. "We came across old pilot programs we never used and things for other grades," said Loung. Teachers had lots of unused but usable items.
She hated to see them going to waste. She also hated to think of adding to the landfill, and wished that others -- especially beginning teachers -- could have browsed through the array on Lomita Park's "up for grabs" table.
Loung initially thought about posting some of the material on Craigslist or eBay, but realized that teachers don't use either website much for classroom materials.
Then, after stumbling upon a site for selling used wedding dresses -- where she sold hers immediately -- and after failing to find a buyer on general buy-and-sell sites, she decided to create her own specialized recycling site for teachers.
Loung said she loves managing her project, and the enthusiasm behind the endeavor is apparent. Her blog and Facebook page also share tips on swap meets, retailers' school-supply specials, places with free stuff for teachers, and teacher jokes.
Educycle features a page of business donations like a laser-jet printer, "deals under $5" and free items -- color-coded Post-its, tabbed file folders, wooden cutouts. It's searchable by category, subject, grade and location.
"It's super easy to use," said Wynne Lee, a Peninsula Montessori teacher who recently passed along folders, chalk, binder clips and yarn to a another teacher who answered he Educycle posting. "She walked away with a shopping bag full of items that I was happy to unload."
Contact Sharon Noguchi at 408-271-3775. Follow her at Twitter.com/NoguchiOnK12.