This year marks two decades of teachers using DonorsChoose to bring classroom dreams to life. In our “20 Years, 20 Teachers” series, we’ll be featuring one teacher who had their first projects funded in each year of our history. (Read about teachers from 2000–2004, teachers from 2005–2009, and teachers from 2015–2019.)
Our second decade as an organization started off with a splash — Oprah Winfrey included DonorsChoose on her Oprah’s Favorite Things 2010 list! Standing alongside glittery UGG boots, Jay-Z’s book Decoded, and the just-launched iPad, DonorsChoose reached even more teachers and donors looking for ways to help students thrive.
Bringing Joy and Excitement Through Music and School Spirit
During a first-day-of-school mishap, Ms. Graham’s electronic piano was broken. With no school budget to replace this essential high school music room instrument, Ms. Graham had two options — reach into her own pocket, or create a request on DonorsChoose. She wrote up a project, and within 2 weeks, it was fully funded.
Since then, Ms. Graham’s 42 funded projects have helped her provide her students with drums, ukuleles, and more to fill her music room with sound. “It takes so much more to engage and keep students engaged these days,” Ms. Graham shared. “My room is much more colorful, my teaching much more individualized and my supplies much more diversified.”
Beyond instruments, Ms. Graham has funded a school-wide school spirit initiative, through which a secret group of students create banners to celebrate the school’s culture. She uses DonorsChoose to get the poster paper, card stock, glue sticks, and more that fuel this spirited adventure that benefits her entire school community.
Turning Financial Literacy into Photographic Fun
Students might have a hard time getting excited about financial literacy, but it’s one of the most important skill sets for life after high school. Mrs. Folmar helps her high school students with special needs learn about and practice those skills through engaging, hands-on projects.
When school portrait time rolled around, Mrs. Folmar realized that many of her students wouldn’t be able to afford senior pictures. Instead of having them go without this memory, Mrs. Folmar saw a unique opportunity to help her students learn while also getting the same great keepsake as their peers — giving students the chance to run a photo business.
Through DonorsChoose, Mrs. Folmar was able to fund a camera and photo editing software for students to take each other’s senior pictures. Not only did students learn how to use photo equipment to produce a shot, but they also learned business fundamentals like managing start up costs and setting prices for their services.
Mrs. Folmar stays in touch with her students after they graduate, and says she’s exceptionally proud to see the successful lives they’ve built for themselves using some of the foundational skills she was able to impart.
Cooking in Class to Reflecting Student Identities
Mr. Andy teaches in the same Queens community in which he grew up, and he taps into that connection to build incredible bonds with his students and their families. From helping students who love reading but don’t have books at home access those resources, to reflecting students’ identities in the classroom, Mr. Andy has used DonorsChoose to fuel some of his boldest ideas.
One of Mr. Andy’s projects requested resources to make dumplings with his PreK students. The process was something Mr. Andy did with his family growing up, and he knew some of his students had that same experience at home. He shared that the project completely changed how he views teaching and his students. “Having grown up in the same neighborhood as my kids, I’ve come to realize that it’s so impactful if my kids saw themselves, their family, and culture in the classroom.”
After 8 years of using DonorsChoose, Mr. Andy has been able to bring so many opportunities to students. Read more about his famous Jedi Academy to hear how he brings fitness to his prek students after school.
From Fundraising for a Single Classroom, to Fundraising for 600,000 Classrooms
Ali Rosen is the Head of Foundation Giving, Business Development at DonorsChoose, but she started her career in the classroom in San Pablo in 2013. She inherited a classroom that had years old toys and books, and the only piece of technology was a computer from 1998. Ali immediately worried about her students falling behind their more affluent peers due to this gap in technology. Having heard about DonorsChoose from a few other teachers, Ali decided to create a project.
“I followed the prompts to share my project on social media, and in less than 48 hours it was fully funded by an awesome mix of people: my parents, an ex-boyfriend, a friend I’d made in Kindergarten but had since fallen out of touch with, and even some complete strangers.”
Ali’s experience inspired her to join the DonorsChoose team, where for 7 years, she’s been working with foundation partners to bring even more funding to teachers. “It’s been such a privilege to be a part of this great team. I loved teaching so much that it’s only a really special workplace like this one that could have kept me outside the classroom for so long.“
Creating Magic in the Classroom and in the DonorsChoose Community
If you’re active in our teacher community on Facebook, Alex’s name might look familiar! Like Ali, Alex Fagundez got her start in the classroom before joining DonorsChoose as the Community and Teacher Engagement Associate.
Alex had first year teaching experience like many — she had dream lessons for her students, but walked into an empty classroom. What her classroom lacked in materials, her students made up for in creativity, kindness, and tenacity. Alex was determined to get the tools she and her students needed so that this group of 2nd graders could get back up to grade level reading. After rummaging through garage sales and thrift stores in search of affordable books, Alex discovered DonorsChoose and created a request.