Mid-Del teacher uses website to fund projects
Schwartz instructor makes technology request to aid learning
By Tim Farley
As school budgets continue to decline, teachers like Pat Scott are finding alternate ways to pay for classroom supplies and special projects without using their own money.
Scott and 21 other Mid- Del teachers have turned to DonorsChoose.org, a nonprofit website that allows public school teachers to post specific education projects for their students while individual and corporate donors select the projects they want to support with their financial contributions.
Most of the items and projects would not be provided through normal district funding, Scott said. Many districts, including Mid-Del, have educational foundations that provide a limited number of grants for specific classroom projects each year, but many of the grant applications are not funded.
As a result, teachers like Scott began looking for other financing options.
Scott, a first-grade teacher at Schwartz Elementary, became aware of the website in January when she submitted her first proposal for a laptop that is now used by students in connection with the district-provided Smart Board. A second laptop she received through DonorsChoose. org is used by the students for their Accelerated Reader program.
They’re more engaged with this than they are with paper and pencil. – Pat ScottWISHES GRANTED
Since January, Scott has written proposals for several classroom instructional items and received the funding through DonorsChoose.org. Among those items are a camera and printer, two iPods, wireless speakers, wireless headphones, the two laptops and recess materials that include balls, games and large floor puzzles.
“The students have access to materials they wouldn’t have had access to before,” Scott said. “They have apps on the iPods for their math program. The more they practice, the better they get. They’re more engaged with this than they are with paper and pencil.”
One of Scott’s students, Maribel Cavazos, 7, said the new iPods and laptops help her “learn better.”
“It helps you learn more math with the apps,” she said.
The two major corporate donors that have helped Scott are Hewlett-Packard and Horace Mann, an insurance and investment firm that caters to educators. Horace Mann representative Sharon Lucas said her company has donated almost $400 toward Scott’s eight projects. In total, Scott has received more than $4,400 through DonorsChoose.org since Jan. 1. Horace Mann has contributed $580,000 nationwide this school term.
“This helps the teacher buy things for their classroom so they don’t have to dip into their own personal checkbook,” Lucas said.
The website allows donors to fund projects based on their individual passion, such as music, the environment or reading. Donors can also use the site’s filter to find projects in their state, hometown, specific school district or individual schools.
Scott said she “put the word out” to her friends, students’ parents and fellow church members regarding her projects on DonorChoose.org. The website allows donors to contribute as little as $1 to the project of their choice. Scott said it took about 30 days to get her first project totally funded.
According to the site, projects are thoroughly vetted before being placed on DonorsChoose.org. After the project has received 100 percent of its funding, the item is purchased by DonorsChoose. org and then shipped to the school.
DonorsChoose.org was founded in 2000 by then-social studies teacher Charles Best who believed that many people would like to help distressed public schools but were frustrated by a lack of influence with their donations. He created the site so individuals could connect directly with classrooms in need. Best taught at a Bronx, N.Y., high school.photo A Schwartz Elementary first grader uses a donated laptop computer.