Two local women are leading an effort to help displaced USD 253 teachers prepare for the upcoming school year.

Ashley Kopecky and her mother, Carla Fessler, are asking the community to help local teachers by purchasing needed items for their classrooms. Kopecky said she came up with the idea after talking with Fessler, who retired from the school district at the end of the 2021-22 school year.

“I know how much heart and soul she put in there and into her classroom,” she said. “A lot of it stuff was out of her own pocket. A lot of my friends that are teachers also always talked about how much they were spending themselves to provide for their classrooms.”

Following the USD 253 Board of Education’s decision to keep William Allen White Elementary School open this year, a number of staffing changes have been made throughout the district. This includes teachers switching grades at the last minute and moving instructional strategists, who are licensed teachers that have opted to work with the district’s most at-risk students, back into a full classroom.

“Some of my mom’s best friends got switched to different schools and different grades and each grade has a different curriculum,” Kopecky said. “So that just means that you kind of are going to have to start over, even though you’ve been teaching for many years.”

Fessler, who still has many friends working in the district, said the moves have been difficult for those teachers.

“Many of my strategist friends have been tossed into different schools into classrooms after they had not been in the classroom for a long time,” she said. “I listened to [one friend] who cried and cried and said, ‘I don’t have anything. I’m a strategist. I have a small little room and I got rid of all of my big classroom teaching things years ago.’”

That’s when Kopecky talked to her mom about doing something to help out. After awhile, they settled on asking those displaced teachers to post their classroom wishlists and asking the community to help purchase everything they need. Fessler pointed out that now those teachers are charged with decorating a full classroom, to make it a bright and welcoming space for students.

“Most schools give teachers a budget and that’s supposed to buy all the things they need for their classroom that year,” Fessler said. “I don’t know what the schools give, but it wouldn’t be enough to equip a whole classroom again after you havent’ had a classroom for however many years. And most of those teachers chose to leave a full classroom to become strategists, to work with our heaviest-needs kids.”

Kopecky said she would like to see the Emporia community come together for its teachers again, like they did during the start of COVID-19.

“We all went through COVID, we had to give some grace to our teachers with all of the change they were dealing with because school wasn’t going to be the same way,” she said. “Have patience with your teachers, your children’s teachers, because a lot of them are teaching grades they haven’t taught or a curriculum they haven’t taught in years. But, they’re willing to stick with Emporia because they love to teach our children.”

Those interested in helping out by purchasing items for local teachers can visit and pick any of the teachers that have responded to the post. Kopecky said it’s easy to help fulfill a wishlist because items can be shipped directly to the teacher.

Anyone with questions, or to arrange for a cash donation, can call Fessler at 620-794-2999 or email Kopecky at for more information.

Kopecky also has a limited number of new backpacks and lunchbags available to families who need them. People can reach out to her for more information.

(4) comments


so,, I have been paying school taxes for 55 years, and still paying even though I have not had kids in school since 1992. Now the school board wants us to contribute more. WTH are my taxes for??


Plus 70+mil worth of building upgrades...


Personally, I believe that we should fund our Education System at least as fully as we fund our Military. But of course, here in Emporia, most of us tend to favor our teachers.


More important questions, Bub.

1) Why on earth would you stop paying school taxes if you don't have kids in school? Education is a public good--a democracy needs a well-educated population. We need the results of education: doctors, engineers, scientists, clergy, business persons, auto mechanics, electricians.... Democracy also requires well-educated citizens--if other peoples' kids are gonna vote, I want them to be educated and critical thinkers.

2) If the taxes we pay aren't sufficient to have appropriate and equipped school facilities, recruit and retain staff including teachers, and supply those classrooms...maybe our tax base isn't high enough. (Or maybe we're allowing the ultra-wealthy to get away with not paying their fair share.) In my career I've probably hired 20 teachers away from their school districts. Every time it takes me at least a year to convince them they don't have to buy their own office supplies, equipment, etc. What kind of society do we live in where we pay someone $35k or $38k AND make them buy their own work supplies? No wonder about 15% of my applicant pool are teachers wanting out of education. I can tell you this--they know how to work hard and they know how to stretch every dollar to get the most out of it.

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