In many ways, Jed Dearybury is like most DonorsChoose.org teachers. Teaching was his dream, and he went into the profession first and foremost to make a difference. He believes teachers serve as role models for students, someone they can look up to, someone to help them learn and grow. His personal mantra is: “If I pass through life without making a mark, for what did I live?”
Like many US public school teachers, soon after starting his career Jed found himself with ideas for lessons that needed tools beyond what his district could provide. He wrote his first DonorsChoose.org project in 2006, for a language lab to help students learning English. His second project was for a complete library of Berenstain Bears books. Jed was hooked, telling colleagues he’d found the “fountain of youth” for teachers.
Since then he’s had 107 projects funded, raising over $25,000 for his classroom. He’s also been recognized as a local and district Teacher of the Year, was a finalist for South Carolina Teacher of the Year, and received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.
Equip, Encourage, Empower
Jed also believes that teachers can make an impact beyond their classroom. He taught other teachers in his district how to use DonorsChoose.org, shared his work on a classroom blog, and gave talks around the state. So when the Palmetto State Teacher’s Association asked him to take this work on the road full-time, he couldn’t say no. Not an easy decision for a man who told us that going into teaching was “the best decision of my life.”
Now he works as the Director of Professional Development and Communications for the PSTA, running professional development sessions across South Carolina. Jed focuses on what he calls the “three Es”: equipping, encouraging, and empowering teachers.
Across South Carolina Jed has met teachers with low morale, people he’s recognized as “defeated” by negative perceptions of schools or lack of funding. But more than anything Jed believes in the power of a great teacher. “I’m just here to encourage them, to lift them up, to keep them going in the profession,” he said, emphasizing how every teacher has a chance to keep “championing for teachers and students, and championing the profession which is so important.”
Tips from an Expert Fundraiser
In the 2015/2016 school year, Jed ran over 60 sessions entirely focused on using DonorsChoose.org to fill classrooms. He starts them all of in the same way, by showing teachers a picture of his classroom that highlights some of materials he’s received since 2006. “You have to get people excited about it before you do anything else,” says Jed. “It really lets them know right off the bat: ‘Hey, this is for real, this teacher knows what he is doing.’”
His first piece of fundraising advice? Tell everyone you know three times about your project, “then tell ‘em again.” He encourages teachers to get business cards with a link to their teacher page (here’s a template you can print), which he calls his “miniature billboard.” This lets him take advantage of more random interactions, like the bank president he met at a bar who ended up fully funding one of Jed’s projects.
Jed also regularly reaches out to local businesses. They know “this is going to benefit our community. This is gonna make a stronger workforce,” he said. “The stronger those schools are, the better their businesses will be.”
Most importantly, he believes teachers need to tell their classroom’s story. “Every time that project went live, it was an opportunity for me to send an email to a business, to a newspaper, to my Facebook friends, to all of the Twitterverse to say, ‘Hey, look at this teacher, look at what he’s doing, look at the innovation and the excitement that he’s bringing to his classroom.’”
DonorsChoose.org became a key part of this for Jed, as “not just a way for me to ask for materials for my students,” but “a way for me to advocate for public education. And advocating for public education meant, for me, sharing the stories.”
We’ll feature more from Jed on the blog over the next few months, but until then, we want to know: how do you share your classroom’s story? Tell us in the comments, and we’ll share the best answers out on social media.