This story originally appeared on San Jose Mercury NewsBy Sharon Noguchi
It’s was like Christmas morning every day last week in Jennifer Howard’s English classroom, as boxes of pencils and spiral notebooks, white-board easels and even an iPad arrived daily..
There were books too: Class sets of “The Alchemist,” “Warriors Don’t Cry” and No Fear Shakespeare’s version of “Romeo And Juliet” with modern-English equivalents next to the original text.Howard, 28, a seventh-year teacher at Oakland High, woke up Wednesday and found out that her request for supplies she had posted on the crowd-funding site DonorsChoose had been funded. Her excitement grew as she read e-mail after e-mail announcing that Google had funded her four requests — and projects posted by 603 other teachers in nine Bay Area counties.“The boxes were getting delivered, and the kids were saying, ‘Ooooh, what’s in that one?'” said Howard.Google’s gift totaled nearly $666,900 for 718 projects. Some lucky teachers like Howard had posted multiple projects. Google included a comment on the online page of each project it funded, and later the New York City-based DonorsChoose sent an e-mail to each teacher.The Mountain View-based company had asked how it could focus on nearby schools, and it and DonorsChoose came up with the plan to fund current projects requested by Bay Area teachers, DonorsChoose spokesman Christopher Pearsall wrote in an e-mail.DonorsChoose, a 501(3)c charity, was founded in 2000 by teachers in the Bronx, N.Y. On its website, public and charter-school teachers select a needed item from its catalogs, write a description of their project then post it online. Would-be donors can peruse those requests, sorted by geography, need, type or funding level, and click to donate specific amounts.If enough donations accumulate to fully fund a project, DonorsChoose notifies the principal, and purchases and ships the item to the school. The charity requires teachers and students to write thank-you notes and explain the impact of the item in the classroom. About 70 percent of requests get fully funded. Those not attracting enough donations within four months are taken off the list and the contributions credited to donors.Cheri Weinhagen, a computer and engineering teacher at Pleasanton’s Hart Middle School, had given up hope for full funding for a $2,800 3D printer, something wanted for her classroom from her first day.“The things you can teach with them are amazing,” Weinhagen said. “But you know how funding is. I figured the only way I could get one is if somebody paid for it.”Weinhagen had just a handful of donations and her project was about to expire when she found out about the Google funding.“I almost started crying. This is awesome. It’s been weighing on my mind that these parents donated this money and it was just sitting out there. When I opened that e-mail, I thought, wow, this is the best news of the month.”Tim Jones, a fourth-grade teacher at Brentwood Academy in East Palo Alto, has gotten more than Christmas through DonorsChoose. On Friday, he opened a box containing a hobby laser cutter. He’ll also receive bookcases, headphones, paper, iPads, a camera and 3D printers — items together worth about $15,000.“I was speechless,” said Jones, 31, who has taught since 2006 and has had 93 projects funded over the years. Without DonorsChoose, he said, his classroom in the Ravenswood City School District would be pretty sparse. “We’d barely have paper,” he said.This week, Jones, Howard. Weinhagen and hundreds of other Bay Area teachers and students will be writing lots of thank-you notes.“It’s well worth it, seeing them get excited by the arrival of school supplies,” Howard said. “They get impressed by people’s generosity. They say, ‘Wait, strangers and organizations actually care about Oakland High?'”