For the Love of Expo® Markers

By Carolyn Lyon James

The final bell has rung, and all the students are gone for the day. A peaceful silence has fallen throughout the middle school. Now is the twilight time of day for educators — that time after students have left the building, but before the maintenance workers come through to clean rooms and hallways. Like phantoms in a forgotten mansion, teachers slowly drift into the hallways, eyes cast downward, searching, scanning the floors for treasure. Suddenly, one teacher bends down to retrieve a lost artifact. He lifts it above his head in triumph, its golden hue glimmering in the afternoon’s fading sun. It is a pencil, a Ticonderoga® , with most of its eraser still intact. A real find indeed! The other teachers trudge on, hoping to find more jewels hidden among the dust bunnies, candy wrappers, and discarded notebook pages. Other pencils are found, dusted off, and taken back into classrooms, but the bounty is a meager one today. Perhaps tomorrow will bring more treasure. The teachers walk back into their classrooms as the maintenance crew comes through with giant dust mops to sweep away the debris of another school day.

I love the smell of new school supplies. When my sons were young, I always tried to go supply shopping in July, before most other parents were thinking of back-to-school shopping. My kids and I would scour the aisles looking for the items on each of their class lists — the crayons, pencils, notebooks, and folders that each of them needed for the upcoming school year. Plus, we got the necessary classroom supplies: hand sanitizer, tissues, and the coveted Expo® markers that teachers use sparingly in an attempt to get them to last the entire year, knowing they’d be lucky to get them to last until winter break. We loved bringing our bags home and dumping them on the living room floor, each child rummaging through the pile to find his items. Full disclosure: This is also when we would finally sort through the backpacks that had been sitting by the kids’ bedsides since school got out for the summer in early June, stuffed to bursting with papers, broken crayons, and (once) a forgotten peanut butter sandwich. (That’s one way to get yourself a new backpack!) Those items looked so forlorn and aged compared to the glittering newness of the recently purchased gems in the pile right next to them. It felt so satisfying to replace the old and broken with the new and whole.

My youngest son graduated from high school this past spring. We’ll still go shopping for pencils and notebooks for college, but nothing beats the thrill of searching for, and finding, the page-long list of supplies from elementary and middle school. On the bright side, that leaves more Expo® markers for me! I’ve tried some of the knock-off brands of dry erase markers, but nothing works like an Expo®. Just like Ticonderoga® is the Cadillac of pencils, Expo® has the best color and erases better than any other brand.

I’m not the only one who feels this way. I recently spoke with Lori Vana, who is the president and a board member of the Teacher Store. She told me that when teachers visit the Teacher Store, almost everyone comments on the fact that it carries brand-name items, including Expo® and Crayola® brands. Lori says she gets a secret thrill every time a teacher walks into the Teacher Store truck for the first time. The store has everything — all the school supplies, including glue sticks, scissors, and ear buds — plus personal hygiene products, facial tissues, and hand sanitizer. The Teacher Store issues Teacher Bucks to use as currency, and teachers can spend their Teacher Bucks on whatever they want in the store, even if all they want is multiples of one thing, like a bunch of scissors or glue sticks.

So, as the summer begins to wane, I try to push away thoughts of the next school year. I still have summer projects I want to complete, and two books I want to read. There are also a couple of road trips I want to go on, and friends I want to visit. But, all the same, I get excited when I think about the new students coming in. I love walking into the school building and seeing those floors waxed to a high shine. And, of course, I can’t wait to get a new package of Expo® markers. This year, I think I’ll treat myself and buy some pre-sharpened Ticonderogas. An extravagance, I know, but I’ve decided I’m worth it.