More than half a million teachers have seen their classroom projects funded through DonorsChoose during the past two decades. The website allows charitable donations in the name of education.
This year, as students face uncertain times, teachers say those donations are more important than ever before. A search for COVID in Connecticut results in 123 projects on the site.
Bristol Eastern High School biology teacher Sarah Coderre has used DonorsChoose before. Past projects supplemented her classroom.
“This project is more essential facing the pandemic we’re in,” she explained.
The supply she needs, an iPad, will help her bridge the digital divide she has with her students if they have to return to long-distance learning. She quickly learned last spring that she didn’t have the tools she needed to connect with her class.
“Writing on my phone, and then saving my file, and then uploading it back to the student, in some cases I even printed out a student’s work and then I would scan it back into the computer and share it with the students that way,” she explained. “The most important thing is giving them feedback and having that feedback be individualized per kid. Students were turning in work while I was still trying to pass back comments to them and that was just not conducive to their learning If they didn’t understand why they might have gotten something wrong they might continue that mistake as we go."
Many of the website’s projects show a greater emphasis on safety. With Keep your Mitts Off my Sticks Corderre’s colleague, band teacher Ken Bagley, is asking for drum sticks so that his percussionists have their own set and don’t have to share. A New Britain elementary teacher is hoping you’ll help her purchase easy to clean cushions for her classroom.
“Obviously, there’s more things geared toward cleaning. I tried to find some reusable masks that the kids could maybe decorate,” said Ashley Sanzone.
Sanzone will be teaching special education for the first time at Bucks Hill Elementary in Waterbury. Her request is simple: soap.
“It can be hard to come by these days so that is why I thought it would be great just so we had it,” she explained.
Since her district has said it plans to provide cleaning supplies, Sanzone said this is a just in case request.
“If the kids didn’t have it at home it would also be great to have that little stockpile to send it home,” Sanzone said.
Taryn Christiani, a registered school nurse worries about not being able to fix the boo-boos of her young students at Derby’s Irving Elementary. She explained that to avoid unnecessary exposure, students won’t be allowed to see the school nurse unless it’s an emergency or they need daily medication.
“Their lips are chapped, or they have dry skin, or they lost a baby tooth. This year it’s going to be kind of different because those things are going to have to be managed in the classroom,” she said.
Christiani is making COVID kits, filled with Band-aids, sick sacks, lotion and lip balm.
“I have to have individual use lip balm because we can’t be dipping in the Vaseline tub anymore. Even the lotion, you know having a big bottle of lotion and just kind of squirting it on kids’ hands, you can’t do that anymore,” she pointed out.
Hartford elementary teacher Courtney Proto is also making sure her students have their own supplies.
“To try to prevent the passing of any germs at all, if you’re only using yours then you’re not passing that onto your classmates,” said Proto who teaches at Dwight Belizzi School.
She explained that buckets of crayons and stacks of communal school supplies won’t be available this year.
“If we are in school full time they’ll each get their own box with their own supplies labeled for them, so they won’t have to share,” she said.
One New Britain teacher is asking for donations for seat sacks, help keep kids’ school supplies separate, while an Enfield teacher is looking for funds to buy book bins, to keep materials safely at her students’ fingertips.
Proto’s school supply project was recently fulfilled. Now, she’s preparing for the possibility of teaching from home. She learned a lesson last spring that she doesn’t want to repeat.
“I was putting a chair on top of the desk, and then my laptop on top of that to sort of frame me as I would be in the classroom with the board next to me and teaching, so I put in for a cart just to put my laptop on so it’s easier for the kids to see what I’m doing,” she said.
Proto said she’s already had one other project completed. While this school year may look different, the generosity hasn’t seemed to suffer.