Ann Dunn’s third grade students need your help. They need to buy a new computer, but state funding has trickled to a stop and technology was one of the first things to get cut. The same thing happened to Charles Best, a New York public school teacher who didn’t have the funding to take his students on field trips or provide the materials for art projects. He decided to do something about that, and now, after 12 years he has helped schools around the country raise more than $105 million dollars that go directly to the classroom through DonorsChoose.org.
“We get no money for technology at school,” HBSD Director of Technology Teri Tsosie said. “The only way we can get computers or books or anything teachers decide they want is through grants or donations.”
The Hermosa Beach School District started posting projects to the DonorsChoose.org website two years ago. The website, an online program where teachers post projects outlining their need along with a goal, helps teachers fund programs or projects that they lack the money to do. Since beginning, the Hermosa schools have completed 60 projects ranging from $150 to $1500 each. Requests run the gamut from ink cartridges and kindergarten kitchens to books and computers.
“Donors choose rocks, it’s so awesome,” said Dunn. “These people that donate a lot of times are strangers, it’s so touching.”
“Our parents have been incredibly supportive of this program,” Superintendent Patricia Escalante said. “When we send out an email letting them know we’re in the cycle and need their help they are responsive and address our needs and so generously and quickly that we’re very appreciative.”
The website currently has one project listed for Hermosa Beach.
“As a third grade teacher, I have noticed that my students benefit greatly from having access to a wealth of scientific information. While a literature-rich classroom is vital for every child, access to what is available online is important as well,” Dunn wrote in her proposal. “My students want to know more about their environment and other biomes around the world. I teach at a very small school in a coastal town. We are only a one school district. My students vary in age and interests, but they all love science in my class.”
“I can honestly say our parent community has been absolutely marvelous,” Tsosie said. “Every time I send things out, things get purchased.”
Often times the donor program or other benefactors add incentives to the donations by matching funds. In Hermosa Beach, teachers post the most projects in the fall to jumpstart the school year and not conflict with spring fundraisers.
For Hermosa Beach, the only way to update their technology is through donations and grants. Dunn often requests additional materials to expand the state textbook requirements. One year she wrote down every additional book the text books suggested, and soon after all the titles were purchased and are now sitting on a shelf in her classroom. She also has eight additional computers in her classroom with games and lessons that help the students better understand the lessons.
“The State has grant opportunities for technology,” said Tsosie. “However, our school district can’t apply because we don’t fall within the guidelines. Neighboring districts get half a million dollars, and we get nothing.”
As part of the program, teachers update donors with thank-you notes and photos.
“We’ve been lucky,” said Tsosie. “I might not even say we’re lucky — it’s the support of the parents. If we didn’t have the parents’ support we wouldn’t receive the projects the teachers post.”
So far Ms. Dunn’s class has raised $21 from five donors. They have $1,476 to go.
“I think every teacher should tap into it and just look,” Dunn said.
Visit donorschoose.org for more information. ER