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20 Years, 20 Teachers: 2015–2019


2020 marks two decades of teachers using DonorsChoose to bring classroom dreams to life. In our “20 Years, 20 Teachers” series, we’ll be featuring one teacher who had their first projects funded in each year of our history. (Read about teachers from 2000–2004, teachers from 2005–2009, and teachers from 2010–2014.)

The past five years have been a whirlwind of growth for DonorsChoose. In 2018, our community of donors and partners funded the millionth project request, and we’re already coming up close on 2 million. Four out of every five US public schools have had a teacher use DonorsChoose to request resources, and more than 4.5 million people have given.

While we can’t say for certain what the next 20 day will hold, let alone the next 20 years, we’re so grateful for the community who’ve gotten us this far. 

Expanding What’s Possible Through Yoga

Yoga plays a key part in Ms. Witherell’s 2nd grade classroom, and support through DonorsChoose makes that possible. The love and generosity of donors can be felt in all of the yoga equipment, from mats to water bottles.

Each day, Ms. Witherell uses Cosmic Kids Yoga to help her students stretch, breathe, and relax. One of her students had the bold and audacious idea to invite the host, Jaime, to the class. The catch? Jaime is based in the UK, and there was no way Ms. Witherell’s school could afford the class visitor. “I explained that the cost and the availability would be astronomical. She looked at me with such earnest eyes and said, "Couldn't we just DonorsChoose it?’” The project was a success, Ms. Witherell is still inspired by her student’s mindset of limitless possibilities.

Ms. Witherell shares with other teachers to remember that you’re not in this alone.

"I remember the feeling of possibilities that began to well up — that feeling of not being in our classroom alone, but with an organization — a team of donors — standing with us." -Ms. Witherell, DonorsChoose teacher since 2015

Finding the Funding to Inspire Preschoolers

Picture a pre-k classroom. Do you see bins of toys and puppets? Stations for imaginary play? Manipulatives, art supplies, and colors? Ms. Lillian envisioned all that and more for her students, but needed funding to bring that magic to life. DonorsChoose provided a community of education advocates excited to make that happen.

With 70 projects funded in just four years, Ms. Lillian is a pro at getting what her students need. Of the projects that most stand out most in her mind, Ms. Lillian recalled the impact of a bike project. Students were able to use tricycles and helmets — some for the first time. “It was amazing to see how motivated the children were to learn. So many of them had never rode a tricycle before and it was a wonderful learning experience for them. “

Ms. Lillian encourages her fellow teachers to use DonorsChoose, sharing that it’s made her classroom what it is today.

Nourishing Curious Minds Outside the Classroom

To give her Bronx 7th graders a fresh perspective, Ms. Tom decided to take her students for a sushi lunch fueled by DonorsChoose. For many students, this was their first time trying sushi, and having the support of peers to try new things gave them the opportunity to explore new palates.

As a science teacher, Ms. Tom knows that nurturing a sense of wonder and curiosity is just as important for creating young scientists as learning the periodic table of elements. Empowering students to learn and explore outside of the classroom can unlock a new passion for experimentation and knowledge, and the courage to seek out those novel experiences.

“I think my students will remember this trip long after they forget the details of calculating the eccentricity of a planet's orbit or finding the epicenter of an earthquake,” she shared.

"I hope this experience will help my students see the world, and life, as an adventure waiting for them to explore." -Ms. Tom, DonorsChoose Teacher since 2016

Giving Students the Confidence to Continue Learning

Sometimes a single student inspires a teacher to enact change benefitting an entire school community. One of Mrs. Sears’s students was unhoused, had limited access to clothes, and had no way to consistently clean the items he did have. Mrs. Sears shared, “When he said to me, ‘I might not come to school tomorrow because I don’t have clean clothes,’ it was then that I knew something had to be done.”

Mrs. Sears took to DonorsChoose and requested a washer and dryer for installation in the school. Not only did the student who inspired the project benefit, but students throughout the school community who didn’t have access to clean clothes were able to refind confidence, thanks to this in-school resource.

As the needs of her students change, so too does the content of Mrs. Sears’s projects. “There was a time my greatest needs were glue sticks and paper but now my needs are more to address trauma, social and emotional needs in students.”

Uplifting Students Beyond Resources

Mr. Wright’s introduction to DonorsChoose was not as a teacher, but as a donor supporting a friend’s classroom. Four years later, Mr. Wright was fundraising for his first project, “Creating Open Spaces for Learning.”

Teaching on a Native American reservation, Mr. Wright is deeply involved in his school community. He makes efforts to get to know students and their families years in advance, giving him the time to plan, prepare, and fundraise for the best ways to engage upcoming students.

Knowing he would be working with a student with special needs the following year, Mr. Wright invited that students to his classroom a year in advance. The students sat in on art class, and was able to explore and get comfortable in the space. “I don't think this would have been nearly as easy or even possible without all the fun and engaging items that I fundraised from DonorsChoose that year.” Once the student joined Mr. Wright the following year, he was able to shine.

"My class has learned citizenship, grace, the value of money, generosity, and hard work." -Mr. Wright, DonorsChoose teacher since 2019

Read stories of teachers from 2000–2004

Read stories of teachers from 2005–2009

Read stories of teachers from 2010–2014

On Wednesday, September 16, starting at 7AM EDT, donations to all classroom projects will be doubled in celebration of the DonorsChoose 20th Anniversary. Thank you to the donors, partners, and educators who’ve made these past two decades possible.

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