Remembering all of your textbooks, pencils and notepads on the first day of school can be tough, not least of all when you’re the teacher!

In the spirit of supporting and preparing Tampa’s educators, Tampa Bay Arts & Education Network (TBAE) donated school supplies at two festive Chamber of Commerce welcome events Thursday.

Twenty centerpieces loaded with glue sticks, sticky notes and more were handed out at South Tampa Chamber of Commerce’s new teacher breakfast at Palma Ceia Country Club. Seventeen South Tampa principals each received a centerpiece, and three more were raffled to some lucky new teachers.

Meanwhile at the Greater Riverview Chamber of Commerce’s breakfast at The Regent, two Riverview area educators won TBAE tote bags full of handy and creative goodies.

TBAE’s donations included computer paper, glue, hand sanitizers and, of course, the requisite pens and pencils.

Both Chambers also gave goodie bags to each attending teacher. Included in the bags were TBAE flyers of useful educator resources, such as the Hillsborough County School Board meeting website. The flyers highlight student-centered programming like the county’s Math Homework Hotline show and Teen Kids News. Also spotlighted is TBAE’s August rebroadcasts of Superintendent MaryEllen Elia’s Back to School news conference.

120 new teachers were welcomed by over 50 administrators and community leaders in South Tampa while 20 new educators dined with a 200-plus crowd in Riverview. Both events featured speakers from the business community and officials of each Chamber.

The Riverview breakfast featured much pageantry, with the Riverview High School JROTC presenting colors and local teen group 4 Heart Harmony singing the national anthem. Retired marine and Collins Elementary School fourth grade teacher Regenia Smith was recognized as Teacher of the Year.

During the cheerful reception in South Tampa, principals ribbed each other about “stealing” transfer teachers and touted recent renovations at their schools.

Chiaramonte Elementary principal Marie Valenti admitted teachers bang on her door to be invited to the breakfast. Pointing out one faculty member, Valenti said, “She’s not new, but she missed the breakfast last year, and I told her you gotta come!”

City Councilman Harry Cohen drew laughs when he implored the schools to consider him their personal handyman. “Nothing we do compares to what you do every day. If you need a sidewalk repaired, a streetlight that’s out… call my office!” Cohen said.

Several speakers recounted inspiring memories of Vincent Sussman, the late Plant High School football coach and principal who passed away last October. South Tampa Chamber CEO Kelly Flannery recalled him as one of her most inspiring teachers.

Superintendent Elia closed the breakfast reminding teachers to connect with the students despite any stresses outside the classroom. “Connections make the difference. We need to connect with every child. It’s what brings success to the students.”

Written by Justin Chapura

For more information about TBAE’s student education programs, you can visit or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.