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An illustration of a euphonium, a book titled "Pluto the Planet", a pile of sunflower seeds, and a box of fidget spinners

One Last Look

What's the oddest thing you've found while cleaning out your classroom for the summer?

June 4, 2019
A photo of a man wearing a blue button-down shirt and a brown tweed tie looking at the camera

Joel Serin-Christ


Susanna Chapman

It’s the time of year when teachers are emptying their classrooms for the summer. If you’ve taught, then you know what it feels like to sort through piles of student work, posters, pencils, and lost-and-found sweaters as you reflect on the past nine months and look forward to summer break.

As the classroom walls grow bare and the desks get stacked in the corners to clear the floor for its annual wash and wax, it’s hard to imagine a time when this space was filled with life. And then, as you peer in the last cabinet, you find something that brings back a flood of memories: the thing you forgot was there, or never knew was there, or couldn’t bring yourself to pack up yet.

We asked current and former teachers to tell us the most surprising, touching, or ridiculous things they found when they cleaned out their classrooms for the summer.

An illustration of a pile of sunflower seeds

1. Sunflower Seeds

Ungodly amounts of chewed-up and spit-out sunflower seeds underneath a desk in the back of my classroom. - Colin Seale (D.C. Region ’04)

An illustration of dollar bills in a zip-lock bag.

2. A Thoughtful Birthday Gift

I was the advisor for student council, and my students enlisted my co-worker to help celebrate my birthday. They brought her $4 in a bag and said that was all they could collect. My friend helped them get balloons, a cake, and more. When I came across that bag of four $1 bills while packing up my desk, I cried.Ciara [Owens] Massey (Las Vegas ’13)

An illustration of folders with an essay

3. A Piece of History

An essay from 2008, written by then-executive director of Teach For America New Mexico Nate Morrison while he’d been a math teacher at my placement school. Abigail Cooksey (New Mexico ’15)

An illustration of a box full of fidget spinners

4. A box full of confiscated fidget spinners.

- Hannah [Vishny] Curhan (Phoenix ‘14)

An illustration of a red Christmas mug with a green pine tree

5. A Christmas-Themed Mug

One year my favorite mug that was always on my desk got knocked over and shattered. The next day, one of my students brought me a mug with a Christmas tree on it to replace the broken one. I use it all year round. Krina Shah (N.Y. ’09)

An illustration of a hand-sewn pillow in the shape of cat

6. An Accent Pillow to Brighten Any Room

A hand sewn, yellow fabric pillow in the shape of a fox, complete with magic-marker whiskers, that a student made in home ec class and gave to me. I thanked him for being so thoughtful because I love cats. He corrected me, telling me that it was a fox, that foxes were clever, and that my class made him feel clever. It is still one of my most prized possessions. - Sarah McKibben (Greater Delta ’15)

An illustration of a euphonium

7. Unsolved Mysteries

In my classroom’s back closet, I found a euphonium, an adult-sized Barney costume, and a couple of old refrigerators. - Megan Macpherson (Bay Area ’09)

an illustration of two text books, one with numbers and the other with "Pluto the Planet" on their covers.

8. Blasts from the Past

Textbooks buried in a locker that were so old, I remembered them from when I was a student in first grade. - Kori [Mosakowski] Hamner (Memphis ’07)

An illustration of a piece of math homework

9. Corroborating Evidence

Homework a student really did turn in and I really did lose. - Audrey Momoh (Bay Area ’16)

An illustration of a hearing aid amongst math manipulatives

10. My Lost Hearing Aid 

Nestled in a basket of math manipulatives. - Parisa Pilehvar (Greater Tulsa ’15)

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