As teachers across the city packed up their classrooms for the summer, Christina Viera was busy unpacking classroom supplies at the new Teacher’s World in Spokane Valley.
Viera also owns Teacher’s World in Kennewick. She said teachers from Spokane and the surrounding area often came to shop, lamenting the lack of a local teaching supply store since Learning Is Fun closed its Spokane site in 2011.
Her Spokane Valley location opened July 1.
“A lot of people drive down or make a point to stop when they’re coming through,” she said of her Tri-Cities location. “They’d tell me, ‘We need you to open another store.’ ”
At first she laughed, but eventually the customer interest convinced her to expand. She’ll manage the store for the summer but plans to hire two, year-round part-time employees in addition to a local family member already on staff.
In a strip mall at 4808 E. Sprague Ave., Teacher’s World is less than a half mile west of the closed Learning is Fun location.
While customers can purchase products from her online catalog, Viera said many teachers prefer to see supplies in person before buying.
“They can come in and look and touch and see. It’s different than being online,” she said. “They’ll throw everything on the floor and put stuff that matches together.”
With 6,400 square feet, the walls and racks at Teacher’s World are lined with an array of educational items for all ages, from reading, math and science to English as a second language.
Like an elementary school classroom, it’s a colorful mix of games, awards, lesson plans, stickers, science kits, classroom decor and just about anything else a teacher might envision or need.
“I try to stick to educational. I don’t want toys because it’s cool. Everything has to have educational value,” she said. “We’re getting new stuff all the time.”
With children, ages 7, 8 and 10, Viera has hands-on help to test some of the products, but she said she stays abreast of educational trends, like Common Core, by researching, attending trade shows and interacting with educators.
“I’m out in the schools, talking to principals. I’m always listening, in teachers’ ears,” she said, noting she asks what they’re doing in the classrooms so she can order to meet their needs.
Logic puzzles, she said, have been popular as teachers look for educational games to use as learning rewards and incentives.
Though it targets teachers, the store is open to the public. Viera said it’s common for parents and grandparents to shop for gifts and supplemental learning tools.
“I have a photographic memory of what we have. If a customer is looking for something, I know if I have it,” she said. “If I don’t have it, I can get it.”