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10 Must-Have Books Featuring Characters with Disabilities For Your Class Library

Check out these top picks and find your students’ (or your own!) next read.

Supporters
Teachers

Teachers know: Students thrive when they can see themselves in their learning materials. Classroom libraries come to life when the shelves are filled with diverse stories, characters, and authors. Students with physical, mental, or emotional challenges and their peers can learn together how best to understand and celebrate each other's differences. Authentic, representative books can lead the way.

Check out these top picks featuring protagonists with disabilities — and from authors with disabilities! — to find your students’ (or your own!) next read.

Benny Doesn't Like to Be Hugged, by Zetta Elliott

For young readers
Our gentle narrator tells young readers all about her friend Benny — what he likes, what he doesn’t like, and what makes him unique. This touching, rhyming story encourages children to be kind to each other and to respect differences. According to The Book Wars, “…we need more books like Benny Doesn’t Like to Be Hugged – positive, inclusive, supportive books about autism that prominently center and celebrate children of color.”

Just Ask!: Be Different, Be Brave, Be You, by Sonia Sotomayor

For young readers
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor penned this thoughtful and tender book about the special qualities and abilities that make each of us who we are. As the story’s cast of young characters work together to build a community garden, they learn about each other by asking curious, kind questions. Young readers are invited to do the same: if you want to know more about someone who is different than you, just ask!

My Brother Charlie, by Denene Millner, Holly Robinson Peete, and Ryan Elizabeth Peete

For young readers
From actress and author Holly Robinson Peete and her daughter Ryan comes this heartwarming story based on Holly’s real-life son who happens to be autistic. This book celebrates Charlie for his talents, his interests, and his extensive knowledge on all his favorite subjects, in spite of the things that are a bit harder for him than other kids.

Fish in a Tree, by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

For middle-school readers and older
“Everybody is smart in different ways. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its life believing it is stupid.” For teenage Ally, she’ll find any way she can to hide her dyslexia. But with the help of an intuitive teacher, Ally learns her reading challenges are nothing to be ashamed of and begins to appreciate – even embrace – her fascinating, unconventional mind.

Freak the Mighty, by Rodman Philbrick

For middle-school readers
This first book in a 2-part series by Newbery author Rodman Philbrik introduces Max, who has always been seen as dumb and slow, to Freak, who has a little body and a giant brain. Together, they become Freak the Mighty — unstoppable. These two total opposites become best friends and learn to make the most of what makes them special and their friendship a perfect match.

Wonder, by JR. J. Palacio

For middle-school readers and older
This #1 New York Times Bestseller, made even more popular by its adaptation for the big screen, features Auggie Pullman, an ordinary boy with an extraordinary face who teaches his family, friends, classmates, teachers, and his entire community, what it means to be kind, to be accepting, and to see beyond physical appearance.

Wonderstruck, by Brian Selznick

For middle-school readers and older
This graphic novel follows Ben, a deaf boy traveling to New York in 1977, and Rose, a deaf and mute girl traveling to New York in 1927. Their stories intertwine as both Ben and Rose seek family and belonging. Their journeys, told in both word and illustration, carry readers through time and space to a complex, captivating ending.

Mia Lee is Wheeling Through Middle School, by Eva Shang and Melissa Shang

For middle-school readers and older
Author Melissa Shang, a wheelchair user herself, crowdfunded this book on Kickstarter with the help of generous booklovers who caught her vision. Why? In her words: “it’s incredibly important to me to see more books or movies with disabled girls as the main character. I never had any role model to look up to who had a disability.” Enter her main character, Mia Lee, a sassy, zany, 6th-grade filmmaker trying to find her way through the perils of high school — including a student body presidential race with a mystery to solve!

Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan

For middle-school readers and older
For insatiable readers who need an entire series to dive into, look no further than Percy Jackson and his many adventures (6 books to date, one more coming this year!). Percy’s battles with ADHD and dyslexia are no match for his quests to defeat monsters, titans, and demigods.

Spot a book you’d love your students to read? Create a project today!

From the Front Lines of Education

The 2023-2024 DonorsChoose Teacher Survey results are in!

Supporters
Teachers
Education Leaders
Partners

Everyone has opinions about our nation’s education system. If you’re wondering how you can really make a difference, start by listening to the experts — teachers on the front lines. 

As the nation's largest education non-profit, we have the privilege of hearing directly from public school teachers about what's happening in America's classrooms. Each year, we conduct a formal survey of DonorsChoose teachers to better understand what’s happening in schools, straight from the source. These are the top 5 takeaways from this year.

#1. Teachers are shouldering significant financial burdens to support their classrooms

Teachers continue spending on supplies for their students, and salaries aren’t keeping up. On average, teachers report spending $610 of their own money on school supplies for their students and classroom this year. And nearly all teachers report being concerned about teacher compensation and benefits. 

Teachers of color, as well as teachers who work at Equity Focus Schools, report spending $15 to $65 dollars more than the average.

In addition to out of pocket spending, there are two other indicators from the survey that show that teachers aren’t compensated enough — second jobs and school staffing. For example, 49% of teachers report working at least one alternate job to supplement their teacher salary. (Teachers of color and teachers at Equity Focus Schools are even more likely to work an alternate job.) When it comes to school staffing, 70% of teachers say their school is somewhat or severely understaffed.


#2. Teachers need more than pencils and paper

Teachers report needing personal care items for their students just as much as they need basic resources like paper and pencils. More than half of all teachers say they need items like warm clothes, toothpaste, and deodorant to provide to their students.

In 2020 DonorsChoose launched its Warmth, Care & Hunger project category on its website to address this need. Since then, DonorsChoose has seen a 110% increase in these requests.

A classroom snapshot: Ms. Hines in Staten Island, NY maintains a care closet for her students with items like personal hygiene products and winter clothes for children who often share clothes with their siblings or who don’t have access to hygiene products at home.

#3. Teachers are concerned about their students’ mental health

More than ever, teachers are worried about their students' well-being and futures. More than 70% of teachers are concerned or very concerned about the status of their students’ mental health, and high school teachers are the most concerned

A classroom snapshot: A high school teacher from New York says, “[We need] training and professional development that help teachers to manage classroom stress, and implement strategies to support students' well-being; easier access to school psychologists and social workers who can provide additional support and intervention; a possible peer-support program to foster connections and provide additional sources of support.”

#4. Absenteeism is limiting the time students spend with their teachers

An overwhelming 91% of teachers are concerned or very concerned about student absenteeism. Among the root causes of absenteeism that teachers report are:

  • Students experiencing anxiety
  • Student apathy towards learning
  • Transportation challenges for students
  • Students and their families balancing multiple priorities that conflict with the school day, such as parents with multiple jobs, students caring for younger siblings, and students having jobs to support the family

A classroom snapshot: One elementary school teacher from Maryland shares that adverse conditions at home, unwelcoming school presence, and lack of mental health staff were among the top reasons for absenteeism in their classroom. 

#5. Many teachers want to keep teaching, despite the challenges

Most teachers still find the profession “rewarding” and show deep dedication to their students. Despite the challenges they face, 92% of teachers plan to teach for at least 3 more years, and a whopping 43% of educators report that they plan to be in the classroom for at least another decade.

That being said, teachers of color are slightly less likely to report that they plan to teach for another decade as compared to White teachers. This speaks to a disproportionate experience in the classroom for teachers of color — a troubling trend, especially given how important it is for students to see themselves in their educators. (One study by University of North Carolina School of Education showed that having at least one Black teacher between third and fifth grade increases the graduation rate among Black students by 33%.)

A classroom snapshot: A middle school teacher in Arkansas says, “I know that I am helping students in the way they need to be helped.  That might be academically, socially, mentally, emotionally, or it could be all of those things.  I know I do the right things for my kids, and it makes me proud to see them succeed.”

What’s next

The DonorsChoose team is applying the knowledge gained from this survey to new ideas for driving more support for public school teachers and their students. 

If you’re in a position to help, consider supporting a teacher near you.



The science (and math) behind the survey

  • This survey collected responses from just over 2,500 United States public school classroom teachers who used DonorsChoose in Spring 2024 (March 2024).
  • The survey asked teachers about their experiences in the 2023-24 academic year.
  • In addition to the data analysis based on answers from the full teacher group, the DonorsChoose team analyzed the data based on responses from teachers who work at Equity Focus Schools and teachers who identify as people of color.

How 3M Advances Racial Equity in STEM Education for Minnesota Students through DonorsChoose

3M and DonorsChoose are empowering Minnesota educators to cultivate the next generation of scientists and engineers!

Supporters
Education Leaders
Teachers
Partners

Imagine a classroom now a bustling hub of scientific discovery. Solar panel engineering. Local animal life investigations. And a future generation turned into lifelong passionate STEM learners. 

Thanks to an incredible partnership between 3M and DonorsChoose, this vision has become a reality for more than 500 classrooms in St. Paul, North St. Paul, and Maplewood! Since 2021, 3M's generous $800,000 contribution has fueled countless innovative STEM projects, empowering teachers and igniting a passion for science and technology among students who might not have thought STEM was for them. With three years of this important teamwork to celebrate, we wanted to take a moment to recognize all we’ve done together. 

“We’re so grateful for 3M’s dedication to expanding STEM education access for Minnesota’s public school students,” said Alix Guerrier, DonorsChoose CEO. “This sustained support from 3M reflects a deep investment in the local community and has inspired students across the state to fall in love with STEM.”

3M, STEM, and Equitable Access to Learning Opportunities

3M, a global leader in innovation, is deeply committed to advancing racial equity in STEM education. Through​​ investments in educational organizations and programs, 3M aims to create 5 million STEM and skilled trades learning experiences by 2025. They understand the transformative power of these fields and the economic opportunities they unlock, which is why 3M is particularly committed to supporting young people interested in the field, especially those from historically underrepresented groups. 

“3M is pleased to partner with DonorsChoose to help teachers better engage students with STEM coursework”, said Jacqueline Berry, Sr. Manager 3M Community Relations.  “These projects are helping to promote innovation, foster creativity and are helping to prepare the next generation of STEM leaders.”

To achieve this, they’re investing in organizations and programs that improve academic outcomes and provide transformational opportunities for the next generation’s scientists and engineers — organizations like DonorsChoose. Researchers have found that funded DonorsChoose resources boost student achievement, likely because they tap teachers’ frontline knowledge of their students’ unique interests and needs. And because a majority of the teachers who use DonorsChoose are from Equity Focus Schools, it’s easy to get funding into classrooms that support students from backgrounds underrepresented in STEM fields.

Joining Forces around St. Paul

3M first started supporting DonorsChoose in 2014, so when 3M announced their focus on the St. Paul community, we saw a natural connection to team up around empowering students in STEM. Not only is DonorsChoose dedicated to connecting teachers and students with the resources they need to thrive, we also have strong ties where 3M is headquartered — St. Paul — where we work closely with local public schools in the area through our District Partnership Program. So for the past three years, 3M and DonorsChoose have joined forces to deliver critical STEM resources to schools in St. Paul, Maplewood, and North Saint Paul — particularly during the crucial back-to-school season. 

The Results (and Teachers!) Speak for Themselves

Our initiative in the St. Paul region with 3M has demonstrably boosted project submissions, a testament to the enthusiasm it ignites among educators. Through our partnership, we’ve achieved the following impact: 

Over 564 teachers
118 schools, 
1,459 projects 

And together, we’ve created over 15,000 student learning experiences for underrepresented students in STEM!

But these projects are not just numbers to “ooh” and “aah” at, either. They represent real stories from local students and classrooms, as science is brought to life in ways only possible through this support. 

Adventures span from the wonders of astronomy, like Ms. Harris’ “Under the Stars — Astronomy for Kids,” where funding brought telescopes and other resources to make aerospace learning possible for students and even for family nights brought to the community. 

“Students were so excited to learn about telescopes and use them to find objects in the sky … Thank you so, so much for this opportunity to bring a connection to our world and careers.”

Classes are harnessing the power of the sun to power tiny houses and teach sustainability living in urban settings like in Mr. Thuante’s "Solar Generation at School" project.

“Students can apply this learning to the urban living experience that they are having. My hope is that we are instilling a sense of pride through the experience of sustainable living ... Thank you again for providing the opportunity for my students to learn through their natural curiosity while exploring real world problems.”

And they even delve into the fascinating world of local sea life, like in Ms. Katie’s "STEM Project That Explores the Health of MN Native Mussels

“As we delved into this classroom project, students not only explored the anatomy and functions of the mussels but also connected this knowledge to broader environmental issues … Your belief in education's transformative power was evident, and we are truly grateful for your support.”

These are just a few examples of the countless ways 3M and DonorsChoose are empowering Minnesota educators to cultivate the next generation of scientists and engineers. 

A heartfelt thank you to 3M for their incredible partnership, to the dedicated schools of St. Paul, and of course to all the passionate teachers in Minnesota and across the country who make these transformative learning experiences possible

Reading the Rainbow: Essential LGBTQ Books to Brighten Your Bookshelf

Add some pride to your library with these top teacher-requested books featuring LGBTQ stories and characters.

Supporters
Teachers

When we ask DonorsChoose teachers what kinds of books have the biggest impact, one theme resounds in classrooms across the country: All kids need access to stories that reflect their own identities and experiences. 

This Pride month, we’ve put together a list of the most-requested books featuring LGBTQ stories and characters to help you build your classroom or school library.

Elementary Books

Julián Is a Mermaid, by Jessica Love

One day, riding home on the subway with his abuela, Julián notices three women dressed as mermaids. He is mesmerized by their hair and their beautifully colored costumes and headdresses. When he gets home, Julián decides that he wants to become a mermaid too and uses a potted fern, curtains, and all his creativity to make his costume. 

What will Abuela think when she sees the mess Julián has made — and more importantly, what will she think when she sees how he is dressed? Full of love and joy, this beautifully drawn story book is about inclusion, acceptance, and being yourself.

Key themes: Self-love, celebrating individuality, freedom of gender expression

A Family Is a Family Is a Family, by Sara O’Leary

This beautifully illustrated picture shows that what makes your family different is also what makes them special. It tells the stories of families with just one child, lots of children, and adopted and foster children. It also shows that kids can be raised by a single parent, divorced parents, same-sex parents, interaccial parents, parents in a wheelchair, or their grandparents. This book is unique because it focuses on what the characters love about their families; for example, one child says her moms love to sing. 

Full of warmth and whimsy, this book helps kids realize that all families that love and cherish each other are special.

Key themes: Family, diversity, feeling different, love

Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag, by Rob Sanders

This Junior Library Guild Selection traces the life of the Gay Pride Flag through the struggles and victories it encountered to get to it’s place in today’s culture. Young readers will learn about Harvey Milk, one of the first openly gay politicians, and Gilbert Baker, artist, gay rights activist and designer of the rainbow flag. 

This deeply moving story will empower young readers to explore the concepts of identity, equality, and pride in a simple and accessible way.

Key themes: Activism, equality, identity, cultural symbols, hope

Middle School Books

Drama, by Raina Telgemeier

Callie and her friends are working hard to bring their middle school’s spring musical to life. Callie wants to be an actress, but she can’t act or sing. So instead, she’s the set designer — and she is determined to create a Broadway-worthy set for the performance. However, with drama on and off the stage, friendship struggles, crushes, and two cute brothers thrown into the mix, Callie isn’t sure she can pull it off!

If you were into theater at school, this graphic novel will have you reliving the joy and frustrations of being in 8th grade and falling in and out of love with ease.

Key themes: Friendship, family, sexual preference, overcoming obstacles

Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World, by Ashley Herring Blake

After a tornado destroys their home, Ivy Aberdeen and her family struggle to piece their lives back together. Living in a small hotel room with her four siblings and parents, Ivy feels overlooked. Without her journal to confide in and no privacy, Ivy doesn’t know who she can talk to about the feelings she is developing for a girl at school.

This book falls under the category of “I’m jealous of people who get to read this for the first time”. Ivy is a strong-willed, relatable character who faces the confusing questions of “who am I?” and “what should I feel?” with courage and perseverance and comes out stronger for it.

Key themes: Family, first love, navigating through unexpected challenges

Pet, by Akwaeke Emezi

Transgender teen Jam has lived in the city of Lucille all her life, and in Lucille, there are no monsters – at least, that’s what she’s been told. But when Pet, a creature made of thorns and claws, emerges from one of her mother’s paintings to hunt a monster they say is living in Jam’s best friend’s house, Jam must reconsider everything she’s been told. How do you save the world from monsters if no one will admit they exist?

This 2019 award-winning speculative novel from Nigerian non-binary author Akwaeke Emezi is unlike any other. Approaching complicated and challenging themes through the lens of sci-fi/fantasy, Pet is the kind of book that will linger long after the last page has been turned.

Key themes: Appearance vs reality, race, self-identity, gender, speaking out 

Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun, by Jonny Garza Villa

Julián Luna has big plans for himself. He’s gonna graduate high school, get into UCLA, and leave his sometimes suffocating hometown of Corpus Christi, Texas far behind. Then, with one impulsive tweet, he accidentally outs himself. As his tweet goes viral and his worst fears – and dreams – come true, Julián must overcome prejudice, learn how to live authentically as himself, navigate new love… and meanwhile, the only person who understands him is fifteen hundred miles away.

Funny, poignant, and open-hearted, this 2021 debut from award-winning and beloved Tejane/Chicane author Jonny Garza Villa shows middle grade readers that sometimes, being your true and best self can be hard… but it’s always worth it.

Key themes: Race, family, gender, self-identity, social media, friendship

High School Books

Clap When You Land,  by Elizabeth Acevedo

Sisters Camino and Yahaira Rios were born three months apart, but live in different countries and don’t know of each other’s existence…. Until their father dies in a plane crash. As the sister’s deal with their father’s loss, they realize that he wasn’t the man they thought he was and find that they will have to fight to keep their dreams alive.

This novel-in-verse is guaranteed to bring its readers to tears, brimming with heartbreak, grief and love.

Key themes: Loss of a parent, sexual assault, grief and anger, forgiveness, hope

Picture Us in the Light, by Kelly Loy Gilbert

Danny Cheng is a high school senior, a talented artist, and just got into the school of his dreams. As Danny worries about being apart from his best friend Henry, he grapples with the one-year anniversary of a tragedy within the friendship group and unearths family secrets that will rock him to the core. 

Through this story, Kelly Loy Gilbert shows the reader that life is full of complexities and beauty; bad things, friendships change, and our family structure can fall apart. But through that hardship and loss, we find love, joy, art, and if we’re lucky… ourselves.

Key themes: Sexuality, socioeconomic status, immigration, friendship, mental illness, child/parent relationships

An Unkindness of Ghosts, by Rivers Solomon

The HSS Matilda is a brutal place to live, especially when you’re like Aster: autistic, Black, gender non-conforming, and stuck on a spaceship that looks like the antebellum South. As Aster spends her days working hard in the fields under a cruel overseer, she’s told again and again, like the generations before her, that the Matilda is taking her – and the rest of the last of humanity – to somewhere known only as the Promised Land. But as the government grows increasingly brutal and truths begin to spill out into the open, Aster must make a choice that will change the course of human history… forever.

This startling sci-fi debut from award-winning nonbinary writer Rivers Solomon includes a whole cast of LGBTQ and BIPOC characters, each of whom must learn the power of community, mutual care, and resistance in the face of oppression.

Key themes: Race, gender, self-identity, oppression, Black history, neurodiversity    

How It All Blew Up, by Arvin Ahmadi

A TSA interrogation room at the airport isn’t really where eighteen-year old Amir Azadi thought coming out to his Muslim family would take him. Then again, how else was he supposed to react to a failed relationship, bullying, and blackmail? Running away to Rome seemed like the only option at the time… and you have to admit, late night parties and dates to the Sistine Chapel have made for a pretty good escape. But now, Amir’s old life has come to find him again, and he’ll have to tell the whole truth – and nothing but the truth – to a US Customs officer, or risk losing his hard-won freedom.

Equal parts devastating, hilarious, and uplifting, How It All Blew Up follows one Iranian gay teen as he does whatever it takes to build a life he can live authentically as himself.

Key themes: Self-identity, culturally religious upbringing, family, race, prejudice, acceptance 

________

You can help teachers bring these titles and more into their classrooms by supporting one of these inspiring classroom projects curated by our LGBTQIA+ staff and allies

Teacher Appreciation Week 2024 on DonorsChoose

DonorsChoose celebrated a week full of joy and surprises with teachers!

Teachers
Supporters

Teaching right now is so many things: challenging, joyful, rewarding, stressful, rewarding. This Teacher Appreciation Week, the DonorsChoose community made their support for educators loud and clear. 

DonorsChoose is the nonprofit classroom funding site for public school teachers. From May 6–10, donors and partners brought more funding to classrooms than any Teacher Appreciation Week in DonorsChoose's 24-year history!

The stats:

  • More than 468,000 people flocked to the DonorsChoose site to celebrate teachers, raising over $10 million for classrooms across the country.
  • A record-breaking 35 corporate and foundation partners participated.
  • More than 24,000 teachers received support for their classroom projects.

A Stellar Week of Classroom Funding

Five days of matched donations and funding surprises led to the biggest Teacher Appreciation Week in DonorsChoose history. Each day unveiled more funding for teachers across the country. As usual, the tidal wave of support that followed was no surprise at all — donors showed up to make donations with full fanfare for teachers all week long.

MONDAY: THE KICKOFF

Before the day even began, Power for Good Foundation gave a whopping $500,000 in funding to projects selected by their employees. And the Center for Black Educator Development  invited their community to help them give $5,000 to support Black educators and schools where the majority of students are Black.

The morning began with a STEM-tastic match! Thanks to GM, every donation to projects for STEM supplies was doubled. Thousands of folks flooded the site to kick off the week’s celebrations. 

TUESDAY: EVERY PROJECT MATCHED!

It was a very happy Teacher Appreciation Day for…EVERYONE! Every single donation to every single classroom project was matched.

From coast to coast, kindergarten to 12th grade classrooms, librarians to coaches, language arts to music — everyone got to be part of the action. Thousands of teachers from all 50 states and Washington, DC received funding for their projects making it a true nationwide celebration.

Comedian and DonorsChoose board member, W. Kamau Bell helped spread the word by making it loud!

WEDNESDAY: MATCH MADNESS!!

A flurry of partners jumped in midweek to give people a chance to make an even bigger difference for teachers: More than 15 matches and fundings launched all at once! 

  • Bazinga! The Chuck Lorre Foundation doubled donations to every STEM project.
  • A family that cares about teachers doubled donations to every teacher who has never been funded at every Equity Focus School.
  • The Wing 2 Wing Foundation fully funded every teacher’s project in West Virginia.
  • Dalio Education doubled donations to every project from Connecticut teachers.
  • Montgomery Family Fund doubled donations to every book project in Texas.
  • Valhalla Foundation helped support more than 500 pre-K teachers at Equity Focus Schools.
  • Amazon Business fully funded select projects from never-before-funded teachers of color at Equity Focus Schools. They’re also doubling donations to select STEM projects from teachers of color!
  • Bezos Family Foundation supported select projects from Equity Focus Schools and additional projects that help teachers bring equity education to the classroom.
  • Vroom doubled donations to pre-K projects at Equity Focus Schools in Louisiana, Alabama, and New Mexico.
  • Love’s Travel Stop fully funded engineering, tech, and science projects in Oklahoma City.
  • An anonymous donor doubled donations for furniture projects from Equity Focus Schools in Pennsylvania.
  • Kleenex doubled donations to select projects requesting classroom basics.
  • The Peterson Family doubled donations to vital projects supporting air quality and filtration.
  • Happy Planner doubled donations to select art projects.
  • Optimum doubled donations to select STEM projects in Essex County, New Jersey. 
  • An anonymous donor fully funded select schools in Prince George’s County, Maryland.
  • Quill donated to select projects requesting Quill supplies.
  • …and an anonymous friend in Houston will triple every donation to AG Hilliard Elementary School in Houston, Texas.


The world also got a special message from Young Sheldon himself, Iain Armitage, who announced a $2 million in STEM funding in honor of our country’s incredible public schools teachers! 

THURSDAY: A MATCH FOR MINDS AND HEARTS

In one of the most heartwarming surprises of the week, an anonymous donor doubled every donation to projects for social and emotional learning supplies. From journals to flexible seating to behavior incentives, teachers received an outpouring of love & care from their biggest supporters.

FRIDAY: THE FINAL WORD

The week finished off on a high note with a very special promo code. Donors entered the code “FRIDAY” to have their donations doubled and finish off their week with even more support. 

In a spectacular finale, Valhalla Foundation fully funded every pre-K teacher at Equity Focus School who had never been funded before —and launched a match for teachers who missed out. And Optimum brought one last surprise to St. Joseph, Missouri with funding for STEM projects. 

The biggest Friday headline of all? The DonorsChoose community blasted through it’s original goal of $8 MILLION in project funding for teachers to reach a whopping $10 million for classrooms! 


DonorsChoose boardmember, acclaimed entertainer, and friend to teachers everywhere Yvette Nicole Brown made the big announcement!

Reactions from Teachers 

From shock to gratitude to spontaneous dance parties, teachers everywhere celebrated a week of joyful news for their classrooms.

Comment from a teacher who was excited their funded STEM project

Teachers in the Spotlight

The nation’s attention turned to teachers with DonorsChoose teacher features in Live 5 News’ “Classroom Champions” campaign in Charleston and WECT News in North Carolina. 

The DonorsChoose team did some spotlighting of our own. You may have noticed teachers playing a starring role across our channels all week long. Thank you to the following superstar educators: Erica Yonks from LACJHS, Michelle Mason from PS 352X, Alicia Luna and Della Regina from PS 43, Genuine Blumenthal and Agnes Laird from PS 63, Monnero Gurvil from the High School for Math, Michael Costa and Sameena Tanedo of PS 84, and Dora Schaffer of PS 54.


Some Love from our Friends

From comedian W. Kamau Bell to actress Emily Hampshire to Young Sheldon himself, friends with a social media megaphone helped celebrate teachers. They spread the word about the passion and dedication of DonorsChoose educators far and wide.

Photos of celebrites
Our celebrity friends Karyn Parsons, Emily Hampshire, Azia Celestino, Amanda Seales, and RK Russell joined us in making their gratitude for teachers loud!

Teacher Appreciation Week Perks For Educators

This Teacher Appreciation Week, we’re taking our gratitude for America’s educators and making it LOUD with a week of surprises and classroom funding. And we’re not alone. Here’s a whole list of other educator perks this week for you to enjoy!

Teachers

Teacher Appreciation Week 2024 is coming May 6–10! At DonorsChoose, the classroom funding site for public school teachers, we have a wild funding celebration planned. And below you’ll find companies and organizations across the country that show their gratitude for educators this week and year-round.

Deals and Giveaways from DonorsChoose Partners

GM: Educator Discount

You can cruise into class with a sweet $500 discount on a new Chevrolet or Cadillac thanks to our partners at GM!

LOFT: 15% Off

Another DonorsChoose partner deal: Snag 15% off at LOFT in-store and score exclusive online deals – because you get to look great while grading papers if you want to!

Sonic: Freebies all Week! (Teacher Appreciation Week exclusive)

Teachers are going to be graced with appreciation from our partners at Sonic this Teacher Appreciation Week in the form of freebies: Join the Sonic Teachers’ Circle to claim those sweet teach treats starting May 6!

T-Mobile: Teacher Call Plan 

A teacher’s list of things to stress about is already too long. “Worrying about a cellphone bill” shouldn’t be on it. Our partners at T-Mobile are offering deals just for educators, including phone plans as low as $35/month.

More Deals and Giveaways

Adobe: 60% Off

Get real creative for a lot less this Teacher Appreciation Week with a whopping 60% off ALL Adobe products!

Books-A-Million: 20% Off

Prepare for bookworm bliss this Teacher Appreciation Week (and year-round). Books-A-Million's free discount card gets you 20% off everything, plus free shipping. 

Crocs: 20% Off

We know they’re not for everyone, but for any teachers out there who are passionate about their crocs — receive 20% off for all you do as an educator!  

Canva: Free Access

A “teacher appreciation hack” made just for you: Canva for Education is FREE for you and your students all year – unleash the creative potential!

Eyemart Express: 20% Off

Eyemart Express offers a daily 20% discount for teachers – because sharp minds deserve sharp vision!

Hanes: 10% Off

If anyone appreciates comfy clothes during a hard day of educating, its teachers. Hanes is sending the appreciation back with a year-round 10% off discount only for teachers. 

Headspace: Free Access

Teachers always prioritize their students well-being, now Headspace is helping you also prioritize your mental well-being too with FREE subscriptions all year. 

HP: 40% Off

Upgrade your teaching technology with HP. They’re offering up to 40% off and free shipping – score a new laptop or printer at a sweet price!

Home Chef: 50% off First Box, 10% After

After a long day at school it can be tough to muster up the energy for groceries too. Home Chef is offering 50% off your first box and 10% off every box after that – hello, more time for thinking up teacher projects!

Madewell: 15% Off

Lookin' sharp, Teach! Madewell is giving you 15% off in-store and online – because you deserve to feel confident both inside and outside the classroom!

Michael’s: 15% Off

We know when it comes to getting crafty for your students, Michael’s is an educators’ go-to to explore. Now you can do it on a budget with 15% off every purchase for teachers! 

Reebok: 50% Off

Reebok is offering a massive 50% off for educators. That equates to some serious comfy kicks or apparel for running laps around your lesson plans!

Rothy’s: 20% Off

Rothy’s offers a sweet 20% discount for teachers – comfy, stylish shoes that are good for your feet and the planet!

USA Today: 45% Off

Bring the news to your curious classroom with a major 45% on classroom subscriptions with USA Today – spark engaging discussions with current events!

Bring on the Classroom Supplies! How to Share Your DonorsChoose Project

From your favorite group chat to the neighbor down the street, here’s all you need to know to push your DonorsChoose project across the finish line.

Teachers

Not sure where to start with sharing your DonorsChoose project? We’ve got you covered. Below you’ll find everything you need to know to make getting your supplies easy-as-pie! We suggest picking one quick option from each section to get your project across the finish line.

Sharing With Friends and Family

1. Take it to the group chat!  Spreading the word can be as easy as dropping the link to your project in that lively group text of yours! Even better if you put your own unique spin on the message (a fun gifs, perhaps?)  — but even a simple note with your project link included is a direct, easy way to help your people support their fave teacher (you!).

2. Direct Email: If you aren’t going the text route, email’s an amazingly effective way to help spread the word about your DonorsChoose request to friends and family. We suggest picking 2 people and emailing them personally — and if you get stuck while drafting, be sure to check out our Teacher’s Guide to to Email.

YOUR SHORTCUT: Short on Time? Here’s a grab-and-go message for your group text for easy customizing: 

“Hey all! I just posted a request for [brief description of needed resource] on DonorsChoose for those students I’m always humble-bragging about. Every bit counts if you can support it! Check it out here: [DonorsChoose project link]”

Sharing With Acquaintances & Your Wider Network

1. Post on the social media platform of your choice! There’s no better way to cast a wide net about your teacher project than a classic social media share. Our teachers have seen the most success using Facebook or Instagram stories (so you can link to your project directly). 

2. Include It in Your Email Signature: It might sound simple, but a lot of educators don’t realize how effective just having a link to their DonorsChoose project in their email signature can be for sharing to their professional network and school community. It’s a way of getting the word out well and often about your project without ever having to think about it! 

PRO TIP: Want to make your social share POP? Use one of our custom social media graphics to give your post extra pizazz!

Sharing With the Neighborhood

1. Post on Nextdoor.com. In case you haven’t heard of it, NextDoor is a social network for your neighborhood — and it also happens to be a place many teachers on DonorsChoose have found a lot of support. NextDoor sets you up with other users from your area — and you can message in your neighborhood’s feed. Here’s just a sample of how you might message about your project:

“Hey neighbors! I'm [your name], a teacher at [school name], and I'm reaching out to raise awareness for my DonorsChoose project to bring [project resource] to my classroom.This project will help my students [explain the positive impact of the project on students]. If you're interested in supporting some great students from your neighborhood, even a small donation can make a big difference! You can learn more and support the project here: [DonorsChoose project link]. Thanks so much!


2. Flyers!
If you want to take it offline, sharing a classic flyer on a bulletin board in your neighborhood’s coffee shop, library, or other hubs can really do the trick.

PRINT-AND-GO RESOURCE: Check out our ready-made flyers.

Must-Read Books for Celebrating AAPI Characters and Stories

These top picks from DonorsChoose teachers will add some AAPI representation to your shelves!

Supporters

“Whether reading about Hawaiian traditions in Ohana Means Family or about the relationship between a young girl and her grandmother in Grandmother’s Visit, my students will not only be exposed to cultures they may not be familiar with, but also discover that there are many things we all have in common.” – Mrs. Lew, Celebrate AAPI Heritage Month With Diverse Books!

When students read books featuring characters who look like them that are written by authors who share their experiences, they don’t just step into the story; they find their own place within it! These recommendations featuring AAPI characters and stories, will make the perfect addition to your students’ reading lists.

Elementary Books

The Name Jar, by Yangsook Choi

The first day at a new school is always hard, but Unhei has also just moved from Korea, and nobody can pronounce her name. Will she ever find friends? Will she ever fit in? This representative children’s book opens up a conversation with young readers about feeling different and how to help other kids feel like they belong.

Key themes: Cultural differences, identity, fitting in

Under My Hijab, by Hena Khan

Grandma, Auntie, Jenna, and Iman all have their own unique ways of expressing themselves while wearing hijab, and this young girl can’t wait to join them! Under My Hijab effortlessly answers questions that non-Muslim readers might have about wearing hijab, while giving young Muslim girls a positive message about their decision to wear hijab when they grow up. 

Key themes: Self-expression, intergenerational relationships, breaking down stereotypes

Eyes That Kiss In The Corners, by Joanna Ho

Her classmates may have big, round eyes with “lashes like lace trim on ball gowns,” but the narrator of Eyes That Kiss In The Corners knows that her own eyes “kiss in the corners,” just like her mother’s and grandmother’s, and that makes them beautiful. This tender ode to Asian beauty shows young readers that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes.

Key themes: Self-love, confidence, family, tradition

Juno Valentine and the Magical Shoes, by Eva Chen

Juno is late for school, but she can’t leave without her favorite running-hopping-skipping-muddy-puddle-jumping shoes! When she was writing Juno Valentine and the Magical Shoes, Eva Chen was very aware of the power of representation in children’s books: “I think representation and diversity begins at a very young age. You might not be conscious of it completely until you see more people that look like you. Juno is meant to be mixed race so it was definitely inspired by my daughter all around.”

Key themes: Self-esteem, girl power, female role models

Bilal Cooks Daal, by Aisha Saeed

Six-year-old Bilal is so excited to introduce his friends to his favorite recipe of all time: daal! This South Asian slow-cooked dish takes a lot of patience – and help from his dad – but at the end of the day, Bilal gets to share a piece of who he is with the people who love him most. This 2019 Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature winner shows young readers the power of coming together over shared meals and shared culture.

Key themes: Food, heritage, community, identity   

Middle School Books

Inside Out and Back Again, by Thanhhà Lai

Based on the author’s own experiences, this free verse novel tells the story of 10-year-old Hà as she and her family flee South Vietnam just before the fall of Saigon in 1975. Speaking no English, Hà and her family leave their missing father and arrive in Alabama… only to encounter the realities of racism in the South. A lyrical story of love, compassion, and determination, Inside Out and Back Again is a beautiful depiction of one family’s journey to making a new home. 

Key themes: Hope, determination, compassion, immigrant identity

American Born Chinese, by Gene Luen Yang

In this New York Times-bestselling graphic novel, Gene Luen Yang weaves the Chinese legend of the Monkey King, known as Sun Wukong, into the stories of three boys growing up Chinese in America. Though the lives of Jin Wang, Danny, and Chin-Kee are seemingly unrelated to one another, each of them deals with stereotypes, feelings of isolation, and straddling two cultures at once. Their stories ultimately twine together in an unexpected twist in this action-packed modern fable. 

Key themes: Racism, identity, pride, heritage

Front Desk, by Kelly Yang

10-year-old Mia Tang has a lot of secrets. Loosely based on Kelly Yang’s life, this book showcases the family, friendships, and perseverance that help immigrant families face the struggles and hardships that often come their way. A winner of the 2019 Asian/Pacific American Award for Children’s Literature, this novel follows the ups and downs of life as an immigrant kid in America.

Key themes: Perseverance, racism, social justice, immigrant identity

Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee

This sweeping epic follows one Korean family’s journey across the world and through generations, beginning with Sunja, a teen girl who falls for a wealthy stranger and travels to Japan to create a new life for herself. With the Japanese occupation of Korea and World War II as its backdrop, Pachinko intertwines themes of class, cultural displacement, and endurance to make a very human story about what it takes to survive. 

Key themes: Love, sacrifice, ambition, loyalty, immigrant identity

You Are Here: Connecting Flights, edited by Ellen Oh

When an incident at a TSA checkpoint in a crowded Chicago airport goes awry, 12 young Asian Americans are suddenly brought together as they discover the challenges of friendship, the power of courage, and the importance of saying the right thing at the right time. A unique novel told in 12 voices by 12 powerhouse Asian American authors, this book is engaging, moving, inspiring, and accessible for readers at all levels. 

Written by Linda Sue Park, Erin Entrada Kelly, Grace Lin, Traci Chee, Mike Chen, Meredith Ireland, Mike Jung, Minh Lê, Ellen Oh, Randy Ribay, Christina Soontornvat, and Susan Tan, and edited by Ellen Oh.

Key themes: Discrimination, courage, friendship

High School Books

The Sympathizer: A Novel, by Viet Thanh Nguyen

This Pulitzer-Prize winning novel tells the story of an American educated Franco-Vietnamese communist spy caught up in the throes of the Vietnam War. Our team member who recommended this book said, “This was the first book that made me feel like the narrator understands how Americans in the USA view the Asian diaspora.” The Sympathizer is a riveting, sometimes-funny, and compassionate novel that fearlessly examines the public and private legacies of the Vietnam War.

Key themes: Love, loyalty, friendship, immigrant identity

The Joy Luck Club, by Amy Tan

This DonorsChoose staff favorite follows four Chinese mothers and their Chinese-American daughters who connect and navigate their complex relationships through a club known as the Joy Luck Club, playing the Chinese game of mahjong and sharing extravagant feasts. Written in 1989, this engaging novel is just as relevant today as it was then. 

Key themes: Friendship among women, mother-daughter relationships, immigrant identity

Interpreter of Maladies, by Jhumpa Lahiri

Anyone who has ever felt like an outsider will connect this short story collection that centers Indian immigrants and their quest for love beyond geography and generation. A 2000 Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award-winner and a winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, this book was one of our DonorsChoose staff members’ favorites during high school. 

Key themes: Migration, belonging, family, identity

Crying in H Mart: A Memoir, by Michelle Zauner

Michelle Zauner – also known by her internationally famous indie rock moniker, Japanese Breakfast – brings us a poignant memoir about moving through the grief of losing her mother by learning to cook her mother’s recipes. Crying in H Mart pulls back the curtain on Michelle’s life to reveal the intimacies of what it was like growing up Korean-American in Eugene, Oregon, and struggling to remain herself as she entered the spotlight. Funny, heartwarming, and tender, this book is perfect for any teenager grappling with the tension between honoring family and tradition, and pursuing their dreams.

Key themes: Food, mother-daughter relationships, coming-of-age, parent death, heritage

Beyond Black History Month: 16 Organizations Doing Amazing Work All Year Long

These organizations do essential work all year long when it comes to supporting Black teachers, students, and communities. Check them out.

Supporters
Partners
Education Leaders
Teachers

DonorsChoose was founded by a Bronx schoolteacher in 2000 because he believed every public school student should have the tools they need to succeed. We continue to strive toward this goal today, and — with our equity focus — empower donors to give where it’s needed most. This includes supporting Black teachers and their students. 

However, we know this work doesn’t stop with us! That’s why we’re shouting out some amazing organizations that do essential work to uplift Black teachers and kids all year long. Which are your favorites to support?

Black Girls Code

We love STEM, and Black Girls Code is working to make sure every student has access to the curriculum and skills needed for learning pathways in tech, providing training, resources, and support to Black girls and gender nonconforming youth of color.

Equal Justice Initiative 

When you think of Bryan Stevenson and the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) you may think of the incredibly powerful work they do in the criminal justice system. However, EJI also has a Public Education program dedicated to providing educational media, lesson plans, and beyond to close the racial and economic gap to support the teaching of our country’s full history. 

Center for Black Educator Development

The Center for Black Educator Development works to increase the number of Black teachers so that Black and other disenfranchised students can reap the full benefits of a quality public education. Fun fact: DonorsChoose worked with their founder Sharif El-Mekki to launch the largest survey ever centering male teachers of color

The Black Teacher Project

As the name suggests, the Black Teacher Project is focused on supporting and retaining Black educators in schools across the U.S. They believe the more Black educators there are in school the more students will benefit in big ways — a fact we know to be true through data and our own work at DonorsChoose. We’re personal fans of their motto, “Every student deserves a Black teacher.” 

The Education Trust

The Education Trust is working for an education system where every kid, regardless of their background or how much money their family has, has the same shot at success. The Education Trust uses the power of research to push for education equity and to break down unfair barriers in schools and colleges. We have to say, that’s a pretty cool mission. 

Learning for Justice

Learning for Justice was founded by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a means to address inequities in education. Explore their site to find loads of resources (training, workshops, you name it!) to empower teachers, make schools more equitable, and address oppression head on.

NAACP 

As one of America's oldest (founded in 1909!) and largest civil rights organizations, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People fights for political, educational, social, and economic equality for all, particularly Black Americans. While every aspect of the NAACP’s work is vital, we recommend getting to know their Educational Innovation work especially. 

National Society of Black Engineers

Another STEM-forward organization we admire, the National Society of Black Engineers is student-led and works to eliminate systemic inequities in education for the field of engineering (as you might have guessed from the name). NSBE provides awesome resources for both pre-collegiate and collegiate students who are interested in achieving Black engineer excellence. 

National Urban League

While the National Urban League has a much broader mission to promote economic empowerment and equity for all Black people and other underserved communities in the country, part of this organization’s work to achieve this goal is programs that help close gaps in education specifically. In fact, the National Urban League has a ton of signature projects focused on supporting students of color that are worth checking out out.

Race Forward

Race Forward has been around for over 40 years working to dismantle structural racism through collective community power. What caught the attention of our team at DonorsChoose especially is their Honest Education Action & Leadership work. This is a collaborative effort with students, parents, educators, and school board members to provide resources that help build public education that reflects the best of who we are and who we can be. 

Rethinking Schools

Founded by public school teachers, education activists, and community members, Rethinking Schools is a leading publisher for social justice education materials, including a grassroots magazine that features issues in social and racial justice in education. This is such a solid resource for educators and educational supporters alike to help close the equity gap in learning.

Thurgood Marshall College Fund 

TMCF is the nation’s largest organization exclusively representing the Black College Community — and they also provide tremendous support for the country’s K-12 system. One particular program worthy of a shout out is their Teacher Quality and Retention program that helps to support aspiring, pre-service, and new teachers from publicly-supported Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Predominately Black Institutions. 

UNCF

Through student scholarships, providing financial support to HBCUs, and serving as the nation’s leading advocates for minority education and community engagement, UNCF is dedicated to increasing the total annual number of Black college graduates — a mission they’ve been succeeding at for nearly seven decades now. 

Word In Black

Word in Black is a collaboration of 10 leading Black publishers. Their vision? Be the most trusted news and information source for, about, and by Black people. Their reporting on educational equity in K-12 in particular is something we cannot recommend highly enough.

Black Lives Matter at School

National Black Lives Matter at School strives for racial justice in education for Black youth, educators, and all youth of color.  To do so, they advocate for mental health support, increases in Black teaching staff, ending police presence in schools, and mandating Black history and ethnic studies.

100 Black Men of America, Inc

This organization is all about mentorship; it’s one of America’s top Black-led mentoring organizations, in fact! Supplying resources and learning tools that young people need to feel empowered in their education and their futures, 100 Black Men of America also have chapters across the country to better address needs specific to communities — an approach we love to see at DonorsChoose.
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Of course, these are only some of the many organizations supporting Black educators and students and striving for equity in our education system. We hope you found a few of your favorite organizations on this list or found a new organization to check out.

DonorsChoose is the leading nonprofit classroom funding site for public school teachers. You can learn more about our innovative classroom funding model or find a classroom near you to support.

Teacher stories, big fundings, and celebrity sightings: Black History Month on DonorsChoose 2024

Can’t-miss moments from this year’s Black History Month

Education Leaders
Partners
Supporters
Teachers

Black teachers have been instrumental in shaping Black history and American history.

Besides being terrific educators, so many Black teachers today are activists, community leaders, and agents of change. (Looking to meet some of these wonderful teachers now? Meet 5 life-changing teachers in this post and a groundbreaking STEM expert in this post.)

This Black History Month, the DonorsChoose community, generous partners, and celebrity champions wanted to give Black teachers and students the support and resources to do their amazing work all year round. 

From celebrity shout-outs to fully-funded projects to a gift code surprise of a lifetime, check out all the ways the DonorsChoose community showed up for Black teachers and students this February.

Big news for Burroughs

The incredible teachers and kids of Burroughs Elementary in Tulsa, Oklahoma were surprised with $100,000 in DonorsChoose gift codes this month! Burroughs was the first school in Tulsa to desegregate and today serves a majority Black student population. Check out the unmissable moment that students learned of the funding on KOTV:

 

Here for the HBCU grads

The nation’s first Historically Black College and University, Cheyney University, was founded on February 25, 1837! In honor of the 87th university of this groundbreaking event, every Black DonorsChoose teacher who is an HBCU alum and had a project live got a $50 donation to their request. 

A Moment for Mobile

A generous donor gave $50,000 in honor of comedian, activist, and DonorsChoose champion W. Kamau Bell to support teachers in his hometown of Mobile, Alabama. In total, 63 projects were funded from Black teachers and schools where the majority of the students are Black!

Celebrations in California

Actress and comedian Amanda Seales is known for tackling important conversations with humor. This Black History Month, in tandem with Smart Funny & Black Productions, Amanda surprised teachers by funding every single project from Black teachers and schools where the majority of the students are Black in North Hills and Inglewood, California — her home communities.

Celebrity Sightings

Amanda Seales and W. Kamau Bell weren’t the only celebs to show up for DonorsChoose teachers this month! They also received shout-outs from NFL star Kelvin Beachum Jr. and Emmy-nominated actress Yvette Nicole Brown.

 

Perfect Portraits

Social media was blowing up this Black history month with stories, videos, and exciting shoutouts, but none were more heartwarming than the portraits of Black leaders hand-drawn by students. Anyone who has spent time in a classroom knows that Black leaders and educators are vital role models for all students. But don’t take our word for it; the portraits say it all:

The Celebration Doesn’t Stop

You can support Black teachers and students on DonorsChoose year-round, but we also want to shout-out fellow organizations doing amazing work for Black educators and educational equity. Check out the full list here. 

Want to dig even deeper? Explore the inextricable relationship between Black history and Black educators in this article from The 74 by DonorsChoose’s own Kristina Lyles.

Watch: DonorsChoose Survey Suggests a Path Forward for Recruiting and Retaining Black Male Educators

DonorsChoose and the Center for Black Educator Development Presented at UNCF’s Equity in Education Virtual Learning Series

Education Leaders
Partners
Supporters
Teachers

Last week, DonorsChoose VP, Equity & Impact Kristina “Steen” Joye Lyles and Center for Black Educator Development CEO Sharif El-Mekki shared the results from our co-published survey at the National Network of State Teachers of the Year and UNCF (United Negro College Fund) for the “Equity in Education: Advancing Black Teachers and Parents” Virtual Learning Series. 

During the weeklong symposium, participants engaged in vital conversations about strengthening the Black teacher pipeline from educators, historians, parents, and more. We were honored to be part of this conversation and share how the results of our survey — the largest-ever centering male educators of color — make clear the remarkable impact and the unique burdens of Black male educators. Analysis of these findings suggests a path forward for recruiting, supporting, and retaining Black men as teachers in the classroom.

What Does Racial Inclusivity in STEM Education Look Like? We Asked a Samsung Solve for Tomorrow Winner to Find Out!

STEM educator Myesha C. Wallace shares her 3 steps

Supporters
Partners
Teachers

As a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) educator with a focus on video game design, I believe we need to redefine, to reimagine, what we mean by STEM education – and it’s my mission to give younger generations of marginalized students the necessary tools they need to navigate the obstacles and discrimination they encounter.

I  was a young girl in Mississippi when a teacher first made me aware that I  would face obstacles because of my identity. I told him that my dream was to  work for Disney. “Ms. Wallace” he cautioned, “Black people don’t work at  Disney…” Harsh as it sounded, I recognized that this respected Black man was  giving me advice born of generations of finding our path in society where the  deck was stacked against us. Thankfully, I found my way around those  obstacles and into the classroom, where I practice — and preach — three ways to enhance inclusivity in STEM classrooms.

Building on a Legacy of Black American Educators

American history has frequently overlooked the substantial contributions of Black Americans within STEM fields. Building upon the legacy of STEM evangelists George Washington Carver and Booker T. Washington, the ethos of most Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) incorporates STEM education at its core. These institutions are designed for practical problem-solving, addressing real-world issues that resonate within the Black American community. This approach encompasses a broad spectrum, including mechanics, agriculture, and engineering, reflecting a commitment to addressing the pressing challenges that matter in the lived experiences of Black Americans.

  1. Define STEM as a Problem-Based Learning (PBL) approach to solving real-world challenges. STEM is everything. It’s not memorizing individual academic subjects for testing. STEM encourages students to employ a full range of skills in hands-on ways. Before I returned to Jackson to teach, I studied 3D modeling, interactive media, web and design, and worked as a User Experience and Game designer. I bring all that to my STEM classes.
  2. Help students find a real-world, local issue in their community that needs fixing. That will show them there is real value in what they can visualize and create, and ensure students are truly engaged. We’ve done that by participating in Samsung Solve for Tomorrow competitions, creating solutions to failing water supply infrastructure and food insecurity, and tackling green spaces in our local community. I’m proud to share that my students’ solutions have received both State Winner and National Finalist recognition.
  3. Representation matters. Students who see people who look like themselves in positions of trust and authority can envision their own career prospects more easily. Stung as I was by having my Disney dreams discouraged, I still had the examples of success through my educator mother – along with unsung STEM heroes Dr. Carver, Dr. Washington, Benjamin Banneker, Garrett Morgan, Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, and many more.

Resources also matter, especially in schools that experience systemic underfunding. That’s why I’m grateful for opportunities to supplement our school’s resources with technology from competitions like Solve for Tomorrow, and the generous support of contributors to DonorsChoose.

Now that I’m teaching in my home state of Mississippi after pursuing design studies at the Savannah College of Art and Design and gaining experience in web and UI design in Atlanta, I find renewed energy in supporting the aspirations of next-gen learners of color. In doing so, I not only uplift others but also honor my own dreams. As I glance in the mirror, I often find myself singing along to my favorite Disney song, "Reflection" from Mulan.

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