Expo Marker Mayhem


Caroline Christensen

Spanish teacher Nora Olguin uses Expo markers quite frequently in her classroom. “It is a very useful and interactive tool especially when it comes to Spanish when we do all the grammar, the vocab, and conjugations.”

Liz Jones and Caroline Christensen

Three days before the first day of school, the Spanish department went to pick up school supplies for the school year. “We went into the room to pick up our supplies and all the Spanish teachers were there and someone said, ‘We are not going to get markers because we ordered too many.’ And everyone was like, ‘What?'” Olguin said.

The school surprised the teachers by canceling the entire order of markers and requiring that students bring their own markers. Once the shock wore off, most of the teachers realized the logic of requiring the students to bring their own markers. “It’s a good idea because we have students that just color and waste them,” science teacher Dave Oldham said.

Even though the teachers ordered their supplies at the end of the 2017-18 school year, they were only given three days to come up with alternative lesson plans if they planned on using markers for the first days of school.

Principal Ryan Woods realized that a lot of money was going to be spent on markers, so he wanted to make sure it was necessary. He came to the decision to not order the markers. “This … [was during] summer time, so there’s no one here I can really ask,” Woods said. “So I just said, hey let’s sit on it… basically we just waited until teachers were back in August and had a conversation about ‘Hey, is this a need to run your classroom… or is this like an ink pen that kids bring?’ We don’t bring ink pens for all the kids, we just tell them, bring an ink pen or a pencil.”

Given that a four-pack of Expo markers costs around $3, buying one marker for 1,700 students would cost $1,275. However that does not account for the teachers needing markers or any unforeseen circumstances. The school budget for classroom supplies was about $4,000-$5,000.

School board member, Jeanie Kerber often faces budget problems in the school district. “State mandates do tie the hands of school districts on how money is spent,” Kerber said. “We would like to use dollars differently in certain areas, but we must follow laws.” 

Expo markers help make lessons more engaging. Olguin often uses Expo markers in her classroom. “I say ‘pizarras blancas!’ and everyone gets more excited and engaged,”  Olguin said. The language and science classrooms also have whiteboards for every desk, so it is a nice tool for students to show their work or practice problems on. Now students are responsible for bringing their own markers. “It is working out okay,” Olguin said. “I don’t think they mind bringing their own markers.”

Taylor Main ‘20, is indifferent to the change. “I think it’s fine because my other teachers have asked for them, so I already had them,” Main said.

This solution does not lend itself to much speed. Students are taking their time bringing their own markers. “They are getting on it,” Oldham said. “It’s taking a minute, but I have my own which I bought and we had some because we ordered a lot.”

However, classroom budgets don’t always cut it. Some teachers have to resort to buying supplies out of their own pocket. “I bought some markers when they were on sale,” Olguin said. “I am not getting them anymore.”

This can occasionally put a strain on teacher’s personal budget, though. When history teacher Sue Cline was a new teacher with kids, she was not financially able to buy school supplies with her own money.

In the past, the solution was often to offer extra credit to students who brought in extra supplies such as Expo markers and tissue boxes. New policy mandates that none of the teachers can give extra credit to students. This decreases student’s motivation to bring supplies in and leaves teachers searching for alternative solutions. “[Your grade] shouldn’t mean … you have done C work all semester but you brought in 12 dozen Kleenex boxes, so I’m going to give you a B,” Woods said.