“It’s amazing, even when you’ve taught for as long as I have, how much new material there is to learn!”That’s Melissa Hunt, a first-grade teacher from Blackfoot, Idaho, remarking on her experience creating Professional Development projects with DonorsChoose.org.The Professional Development project category is an opportunity for teachers to request professional development funding for tools and experiences that focus on supporting their growth as educators. While standard projects request classroom materials for students, the goal of a Professional Development project is to equip teachers with the training, materials, and resources needed to hone their craft.For Melissa and teachers like her, Professional Development is not about completely changing what you’re comfortable with. Instead, it’s about discovering simple steps you can take to make teaching easier for you, and more impactful for your students.
“In the past I’ve felt myself sort of get trapped within the bubble of my classroom, and if I don’t escape, I just get stuck there. Professional Development is like a shot in the arm. It keeps me excited about what I’m doing.”Melissa’s most recent Professional Development funding project, “Move Your Bus!”, sent her to Atlanta to attend an instructional conference with The Ron Clark Academy. Reflecting on her time there, Melissa feels both validated in what she’s been doing and invigorated by the new methods she has been able to incorporate into her classroom.
“I wasn’t trying to fix anything. I just wanted to reach every one of my kids, regardless of whether they find learning easier, or they struggle with their education.”The results have been outstanding. Beyond absorbing her lessons, Melissa says her students are becoming teachers themselves—using those new methods with each other and allowing Melissa the flexibility to stretch herself and her students’ education even further.
“I love projects for classroom materials. You can use them to help students, and once the materials have been used as much as possible, you’re able to request more. Professional Development, on the other hand, is even more lasting. It’s made a difference this year, and it will continue to make a difference next year.”Not coincidentally, DonorsChoose.org’s expansion into Professional Development projects is happening at a time when schools across the country are being forced to make budget cuts to teacher development opportunities. In many cases, teachers are forced to use their own resources to continue their professional education. DonorsChoose.org’s Professional Development initiative aims to support teachers, facilitating experiences that will enrich their classrooms.