A few years ago, several teachers at Rogers Park Middle School wanted to enhance students’ experiences in their classrooms. Rather than compete for limited school budget dollars, they looked elsewhere, putting their names on a giant “wishlist” called “Donors Choose.”
And this year, they got many of their wishes and are very thankful for the items that range from chrome books and bean bag chairs to warm boots for needier students.
Kristy Zaleta, RP associate principal for instruction, said that the website has been a tremendous boon to the school. “We are extremely grateful for the generosity of so many people and corporations that support local educational needs in such meaningful ways. These donations really make a difference in our students’ lives.” She also said that local businesses have also been good to the school, noting that Todd Ingersoll of Ingersoll Auto recently donated an additional five laptops for a total of 10 laptop computers, as he has in the past to other district schools.
School counselor Sonia Rivera and Cindy Abbott requested technology and warm clothing through the non-profit site that collects donations for public schools across the country. She said people donated money and clothing items that will help students whose families cannot always afford the basic necessities.
“We appreciate the contributions made by the donors on behalf of our students,” said Superintendent Dr. Sal Pascarella. “But we also appreciate our Danbury teachers’ organizing these efforts. Our district is faced with many difficult financial decisions, and it makes a big difference for our students when their teachers take it upon themselves to provide them with the materials they need to be successful.”
To date “Donors Choose” has mobilized more than two million citizen donors and dozens of corporate and foundation partners to donate more than $600,000 in classroom project funding impacting more than 25 million students. Rogers Park has 930, more than 70 percent of whom receive reduced or free lunch. Fifty-one Rogers Park teachers have posted 40 projects on Donors Choose and have been funded by 400 supporters, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, for a total of $147,100 raised to date.
Sixth-grade social studies teacher Brian Betesh recently received the four beanbags chairs, four stools, four chairs and a large screen television he needed for classroom projects and activities.
“It’s been a big change in the classroom,” said Betesh, adding that the students can now plug into the large screen and sit at a table for group work. “The students are very engaged at all the stations.”
Chris Purdy, eighth-grade science teachers, has used the website since 2014. He has a 50-inch television monitor and 25 chrome books through the site, and recently added a dozen chairs, lamps and six bean bag chairs to facilitate science talks and student collaboration.
Eighth-grade teacher Patty Tracey has been requesting items on the website since 2015. She now has 21 chrome books and a cart to store and charge them.
“We can do so many things with the chrome books like graphing decimals and we can use websites like Google classroom and Google drive,” Tracey said. “Having them in the classroom is huge.”