Freebie and Discount Site Helps Teachers

Oklahomans for Teachers lets local businesses show support by listing discounts for teachers.

Tulsan Christy Hays was listening to Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Deborah Gist’s presentation to Leadership Tulsa, and it made an impact on her. Hays was disheartened to learn that Oklahoma teachers struggle to pay bills, often buy their own class supplies and can teach in Texas and make in three years what it would take 15 years to make in Oklahoma.

“It came to me,” Hays said, “that because it’s such a hurdle to get raises for teachers, the other side would be to reduce expenses.”

As the idea percolated, Hays decided she could start with her own business as a Zumba instructor and offer free classes for teachers.

“It [the story of the free classes] was on Channel 6,” she said, “Morrison Automotive saw it, and they offered something, too.”

Encouraged by others’ willingness to help, Hays built a Facebook page and a website called Oklahomans for Teachers. Businesses can post free services and discounts on the site by clicking on “contact us” and filling out a form, which Hays will post to both Facebook and the website,

“For every dollar that we spend on education, we have five times the return on investment in economic development.”–Christy Hays, founder of Oklahomans for Teachers

Teacher Kelly Caffey learned about Hays’ free Zumba classes through Facebook and took advantage of the offer. She has also used a restaurant offer and plans to use Philbrook’s free membership for teachers.

“Oklahomans for Teachers is a wonderful and innovative idea to help with the statewide plight of teacher salaries,” Caffey said. “Since salaries in Oklahoma remain embarrassingly low, helping teachers with typical expenditures is a great way to help them combat their low salaries. It’s a practical and simple way to do something positive for teachers, and anyone can participate by jumping on board or asking friends with businesses to offer a discount.”

Caffey says she is a “reluctant exerciser,” but enjoys Hays’ classes and now goes three times a week. “Exercise classes weren’t in my budget, so had Christy not offered her classes for free to teachers, I would not be able to attend them.”

Caffey notes that participation in the program is growing.

“I am impressed with Christy’s dedication to helping our state’s teachers, because she is not an educator,” Caffey said. “It’s nice to know people outside of the profession, like Christy, are willing to use their time, resources, and talent to encourage and show their appreciation to Oklahoma educators.

Hays says that while teachers appreciate the discounts, “they’re almost more excited about someone giving them recognition and support. They feel like nobody’s paying attention. They go to D.C. They go to the state capital and nothing happens. They feel good that at least some businesses are showing that someone cares and appreciates them.”

As the word has spread, Oklahoma City has picked up the idea and now has a website with over 100 businesses on it. Hays’ goal is that Oklahomans for Teachers will be statewide and continue to grow.

“My perspective is that Oklahoma is so far behind in so many things,” Hays said. “Wouldn’t it be nice if we could lead in some area? Wouldn’t it be great to have the best schools? For every dollar that we spend on education, we have five times the return on investment in economic development.”