BOUNTIFUL — When funds are tight, teachers learn how to stretch the budget for their students.
Michelle Francis, a first-grade teacher at Valley View Elementary School found financial help from DonorsChoose.org, an online nonprofit organization that connects donors with public school teachers who need classroom materials.
Given that Francis is provided with merely a couple hundred dollars for her classroom each year, she sought out and discovered DonorsChoose.org for help.
Now Francis is on a mission to help other teachers know what is available to them.
When she started teaching five years ago, even simple glue sticks were like gold in her classroom because the students went through so many of them.
“Things like that shouldn’t be such a huge deal,” she said. “I love my students, and I want to give them the best education possible. That was hard to do at first, because I didn’t know there was this huge support out there.”
DonorsChoose.org was started in 2000 by a teacher in New York who saw the realities of scarce school supplies in public schools. Any public school teacher can go online to the website and post project requests, and anyone can get online and contribute directly to the projects of their choice.
Francis was able to purchase an interactive learning system for her students with funds she received from DonorsChoose.org. The system allows the students to answer questions, take tests or interact with their teacher via their hand-held devices and the projection screen.
In one example, Francis had a test for the students to take through the interactive learning system. The screen at the front of the classroom popped up the question, and the students punched out the number coinciding with their answer. Francis instantaneously received the results up on the board, with each student attached to a random number.
“Instead of paper tests at the end of the week, we’ve turned a lot more interactive, which saves time in grading,” said Francis. “What I really like about this is that I can get instant feedback, so I can help with problem-shooting if several kids are struggling with the same question, or I can also find out if kids need more time.”
Last year, DonorsChoose.org donated $135,000 to Davis School District. Francis received $23,000 from donations through the organization; $5,000 of that went toward the interactive learning system.
She also has purchased art supplies, books, dictionaries, a sign-language curriculum, computer programs and some LCD writing boards.
The students always get really excited when they receive a box from DonorsChoose.org, Francis said.
Chris Guymon, an agent with Horace Mann Insurance, the marketing arm for DonorsChoose.org, said representatives go around to schools to let teachers know about the program.
“You’d be amazed at how many people donate. Donors in Virginia, New York and Florida all donated to this particular project (the interactive learning system) just because they want to give back to schools,” Guymon said.
“One of the benefits of being a donor is that I get thank-you notes from the kids, in addition to the gratification of knowing the money is being donated directly to a certain project.”