DonorsChoose Returns to the Classroom: Lessons From Our School Visits
Discover why DonorsChoose staff visited schools in NYC! Witness the dedication of teachers, the tools provided to students, and the real-time impact of donations. Learn how our team connects, learns, and continues to improve the teacher experience.
Written by Marlene Barrios, Kevin Song, Maira Vargas, and Rose Wirekoh
Every year, DonorsChoose welcomes a group of fellows: recent first-generation, underrepresented college graduates who spend a year working across the organization to support our mission for education equity and national community of donors and teachers.
One of the many ways DonorsChoose employees stay connected to our mission is to visit classrooms and talk with teachers and students. This February, for the first time since the pandemic, DonorsChoose teachers in NYC showed our staff the impact of our work in person, and how the generosity of our donors puts smiles on their students’ faces. As teachers graciously welcomed us into their classroom, 120 staff members got to visit 23 PreK–12 schools to see learning in action!
Returning to The Classroom
As recent college graduates, we have fresh classroom memories of caring teachers, classmates from different backgrounds, and deadlines for projects, tests, and assignments. We never lacked support from our teachers that went above and beyond for their classroom. We used to wonder how our teachers could get us extra donuts for a celebration or spend their afterschool time supporting students. It never occurred to us that teachers were reaching into their own pockets, spending on average $687 every year for their classrooms, and even devoting their personal time to make sure we were getting what we needed.
Growing from students into advocates, storytellers, and teacher champions, we now see the hard work and care that teachers put into their classrooms. To see classrooms filled with supplies, emotional support plushies, and snacks touched our hearts. A few fellows fondly recall the transformative impact of classroom projects funded by DonorsChoose. By having the necessary supplies for our classrooms, it made it easier to dedicate ourselves to learning, free from one more distraction that could interrupt our educational journey.
Understanding Teachers’ and Students’ Needs
From organization bins, paper shredders, magazines, and carpets, students were using supplies that teachers received through DonorsChoose to learn, explore, and grow. Witnessing this served as a great reminder for staff why many of us decided to work for DonorsChoose, and why we’re passionate about funding public schools equitably.
When reflecting on school visits, one staff member shared, “getting to directly interact with teachers and students in their own environment is … so important.” Another shared that they were “fortunate enough to spend time with a teacher who was extremely open to answering any and all questions from [themselves] and other folks at DC [during their] school visit.”
In addition to seeing the direct impact of our work, we also had the opportunity to learn from the community we directly serve, and bring the feedback necessary to continue improving their teacher experience.
Fueling our Future Work
Immersing ourselves in classrooms opened our eyes to the heroic teachers who work tirelessly to create a great learning experience for each and every student. In our conversations with teachers, they continue to express their gratitude for all the support — from a $5 donation to million dollar match offers — that helps their students have the tools and experiences they need for a great education!