First grade teacher Jessica D’Amato describes her experience on DonorsChoose.org, and her inspiration for her class visitor project: Oh the Mural-ity.
I have been teaching for 11 years, and have been using DonorsChoose.org I believe since it was founded, about 10 years ago. When I began teaching I was a 2nd grade teacher in a trailer in the back of the schoolyard at an elementary school in East New York. To say that getting materials was a challenge is a great understatement. Not only was I was isolated from the building and my colleagues, but I, of course, did not have the resources that I needed to teach my students. I was not allowed to have a computer in my classroom because the trailers were broken into on a regular basis, not that I was given a computer anyway. It was a challenging situation to say the least, one that left me seriously contemplating my recent career change on a daily basis.
When I learned about DonorsChoose.org, I could not start writing projects fast enough. I finally had a way to get the resources I needed to bring my classroom to life, and it was such a welcome relief. I have received countless books, art materials, furniture, and trip opportunities for my students. One year my 3rd grade class spent a night at the Museum of Natural History, all courtesy of DonorsChoose.org! And to think that just a few years prior to this I had no paper or pencils in my classroom. DonorsChoose.org makes the impossible possible, transforming the school experience not only for students, but for teachers as well. Had I not been made aware of DonorsChoose.org so early in my teaching career, I honestly don’t know if I would have stayed in the profession. The frustration level may have been too much for me to deal with.
Since I started teaching at my current school I have always wanted to have a new mural painted on the outside of the building. While I love the sentiment of the current mural, which is “Peace Begins With Me”, and its dedication to our former principal, who was tragically shot outside of the building, the mural is in shambles, and does not reflect the exciting things going on inside of the building. It became a pipe dream of mine to get a new mural, but I didn’t really know how to go about it, and it just seemed too difficult to tackle. Finally I became aware of Brooklyn Arts Council, and learned that they could actually provide a teaching artist to design an updated mural with the students, which I absolutely loved the idea of. When I learned how much this artist residency would cost, I realized that I was going to have to create a project for this on DonorsChoose.org, so that this idea may actually have a shot at seeing the light of day. Even with all of my success in having projects funded on DonorsChoose.org in the past, I never expected this project to get funded so quickly, or to garner so much attention. It has literally been a dream come true! I am looking forward to starting work on our new mural with a teaching artist and a multi-age group of students this coming fall. I will be teaching a new “Farm to Table” class in the fall, and have already started writing projects for materials I will need for this new endeavor. Once again, DonorsChoose.org will be putting my dreams into action!