Make Classroom Teachers Your Allies With a Teacher Cabinet

During my first year of teaching, I noticed a lot of classroom teachers coming into my art room wanting supplies. Sometimes I’d be teaching, sometimes I’d be in a plan period, and sometimes I wouldn’t even be in my room. At first, I was frustrated! I didn’t want to be interrupted while I was teaching or planning. And I really didn’t like searching for a supply that disappeared when my room was vacant. It would have been so easy to let that frustration fracture the relationships I was trying to establish.


Instead, I found a way to build friendships and give the teachers in my school what they wanted — their own art supplies.

teachers allies
After I started to understand that the teachers in my school were simply trying to foster some creativity in their own classrooms, my frustrations started to subside. After all, the art teacher is supposed to promote art, even if it isn’t happening in the art room. So, I set out to make a space for general education teachers to get the art supplies they were craving. Follow the tutorial below to create your own, and watch friendships start to flourish with the other teachers in your school.

How to Create a Teacher Cabinet


What You’ll Need

– Signage (Lamination optional)

– A Check-out/Check-in List (Laminated)

– Vis-à-Vis Marker

– Labels

– Art Supplies


What You’ll Do

Step 1: Make Space

Clear out a cabinet in your room. I know you may need all the space you can get, but this will be a sacrifice that is well worth it. After your cabinet has been cleaned out, make two colorful signs that clearly mark your new teacher cabinet. I laminate these so they can be reused year after year.


Step 2: Create a Check-out/Check-in System

Create a check-out/check-in chart. (Lucky for you, we have one pre-made that you can download below. If you’d rather have a version you can edit yourself, click here.) I created mine on a Word document and printed it out. It’s essential that you laminate your chart so that once it fills up it can be erased and reused. You’ll want to use a pen that can be easily erased. I chose to use a Vis-à-Vis marker for easy clean-up with a damp paper towel.

Click for Free Download
Click for Free Download


Step 3: Collect Supplies

Start collecting supplies that teachers are constantly wanting to borrow. This is a slow process, but every year I try to add something new to the cabinet. Most general education teachers want paint. So, I try to stock the cabinet with multiples of every color. How do I do this? Sometimes when I get halfway through a bottle of paint, I just put the other half in the teacher cabinet. It’ll last a while because they don’t go through supplies like we art teachers do. I also make classroom sets of supplies like brushes, watercolor trays, oil pastels, crayons, and paint containers. Then you might add some unique supplies like a pipe cleaners and a hot glue gun set. If you don’t have extra money in your budget, don’t fear! The teacher cabinet is an excellent place for those random donations you get (26 doilies? Teacher cabinet! One set of off-brand watercolors? Teacher cabinet! 3 skeins of green yarn? Teacher cabinet!).


Step 4: Label Supplies

Label your supplies so they are easy to find and return. You may also want to keep a running list of what you start the school year with. This helps you to know what supplies are being used the most so you can get more.


Step 5: Train Your Colleagues

Train your teachers how to utilize the teacher cabinet. I sent out an email to my staff that was chock-full of pictures, a list of supplies in the cabinet, and how the check-out/check-in chart works.

TIP: If a teacher comes to get a supply, and it has already been checked out, he or she knows to check the chart to see who has it. It then becomes that teacher’s responsibility to return the supply once finished with it.

If you’re tired of sharing art supplies that should only be used in the art room, but you also want to have good working relationships with your classroom teachers, then consider creating a teacher cabinet. You’ll be their favorite art teacher, and you’ll ease any frustration you might have over borrowed or missing supplies.

What tips do you have for fostering good relationships with general education teachers?

How do you let teachers utilize the supplies in your classroom?


Jennifer is an middle school art teacher in Kansas who is passionate about creating an organized, well-managed environment where students feel comfortable to learn and explore.


  • Beth

    I was just having a conversation with a coworker today that I felt like my room had become a craft store! This is such a great idea! I’m setting mine up today!

  • Zandrea

    I’m not quite sure how this would work for most schools, seeing how funds are sparse and the classroom teachers usually get their own funds as well. Most of what I have in my room are items that I’ve personally bought.

    • Fund are super sparse! I promise you, mine do not cover everything I need for the year. However, I have tried to really do anything I can to bring more money into my classroom. I run a fundraiser at my school every year just to get a bit more cash on hand. This helps me relieve stress when I am buying supplies every year. As far as the teacher cabinet goes, it only grow a little each year. My first year I just had a few basics in there, but every year I add a little bit more. If I have 1/4 a bottle of paint color left, I put it in the teacher’s cabinet and open a new one for myself. They won’t go through supplies as quickly as I will, so after time, their cabinet is pretty self-sufficient. Plus, it is a great place to put things that randomly get donated to me. :)

  • Rachel

    When I was teaching, I was told that my budget (that was pretty decent) was meant to include supplies for classroom teachers including bulletin board supplies. I started ordering multi-colored construction paper packs specifically because teachers would walk in my room looking for paper (the previous art teacher had left tons of old construction paper in my storage area, but it was all separated by color). Having a quick, easy to find, solution for their request made everyone’s lives easier.

    • That’s so great! I imagine it is a lot of work to handle getting supplies for all your teachers, but it sounds like you are doing it well!

  • Toby

    Just make sure you set it up so that the classroom teacher don’t expect YOU to fund all their art supplies, and then they don’t buy any for their room at all!
    Just a thought….

  • BossySnowAngel

    One summer, the cheerleading coach with a key to all rooms, came into my room and used all of my expensive black on black mat board for signs for a back to school pep rally. 20 sheets at $8 a sheet! I blew a gasket and she was required to buy us more, but it took time and I was without supplies I needed during that time. What was especially annoying was how she went into my room, my cabinets without even asking on the assumption her needs trumped everything else. We have had similar issues when we have gotten blamed for spray paint overspray which was done when student council used spray paint without caution. I have some old markers and colored pencils that were donated that I don’t use in class. I will loan those out. I personally don’t think anyone other than an administrator should have access to ALL rooms in the building.

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  • Dyane

    Thank you for this article. I am going to try this. At my school each teacher, including me has the same budget for classroom supplies – yet teachers are constatnly “borrowing”, tape, paint, paper, glue and other consumables from me. It has been a source of distress as I never have enough funds for my own classroom supplies. Plus every year I do massive fundraising to cover the cost of my supplies and am resourceful at finding supplies on craigslist, freecycle and companies willing to donate to the art room. Much of my supplies I have spent my own funds on not to mention the time and effort to find and pick up donations and supplies, yet teachers always want to use my materials rather than plan for and purchase their own. I do realize that they do not think like I do, supply wise. I am always looking for a way to save, buy, trade, or salvage supplies. I am well aware that the Art studio is all about supplies. This idea of a teacher closet is fantastic as I can possibly use a separate fund for it to track through my administration (therefor perhaps request a separate fund, something I have been requesting for four years) and I can let teachers know if it isn’t in the closet it isn’t available to borrow.

    As a side note, I also have students coming in to borrow supplies for other classes and class projects. I am thinking perhaps there can be a “student” borrow closet as well. And perhaps on top of both things can be a “donation station” where the supplies can be distributed for the student and teacher stations. Yes!!!

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