Teachers spend their careers giving lessons to the children in their classes, but as soon as this school year started, it became clear that there were lessons for the teachers to learn as well.
When August floodwaters inundated many Livingston Parish schools, administrators and teachers were handed the challenge of figuring out how to piece together classrooms again after devastating losses. What those educators soon learned was that there was an entire network around the country waiting to support them in those efforts.
Enter DonorsChoose.org. Founded in 2000 by a history teacher, the organization has raised hundreds of millions of dollars for classrooms around the country since its inception. Teachers can use the website to request materials they need most, and donors can choose to give to projects that inspire them.
For teachers at Denham Springs Junior High, DonorsChoose.org emerged as one option for getting the support they needed to get back on their feet as quickly as possible. Teachers began to create project requests for supplies to restock their classrooms.
“I think the ring leader was probably Mrs. (Suzanne) Creel. I think she may have been the first person to do it. Mrs. Creel and Mrs. (Elliot) Coates were really early pioneers with DonorsChoose,” Principal Brian Wax said.
Gifted English language arts teacher Charae McMorris recalls that her room "was a complete loss."
DonorsChoose.org projects helped replenish items both large and small — from pencils to laptops.
“All of the class sets of books. All of my library. Every single book was donated," McMorris said. "Every single computer that’s in this room has been donated.”
From the perspective of the donors, the freedom of choice can be appealing. Website descriptions for each project specify exactly what will be purchased and what it will be used for. One of those donors recently got the chance to see firsthand how the donations were helping in the classroom.
Horace Mann, a multiline financial services company focused on educators, donated more than $20,000 to DonorsChoose.org projects in Louisiana after the flooding. Horace Mann agent Chet Soileau wanted to see educators get the classrooms restored as soon as possible.
“Many of our educators invested lots of their own money in their classroom over the years, getting books, rugs and basic classroom supplies … and they lost all of it during the flood,” Soileau said. “By donating to those projects through DonorsChoose.org we, along with many others, hope to help these educators avoid further disruption stemming from this disaster.”
Soileau visited DSJH on Dec. 15 and joined Coates and McMorris in their classrooms to see how things were going. In Coates’ sixth-grade physical science classroom, clusters of students were working at tables on iPad-based exercises — iPads safely enclosed in cases provided through a DonorsChoose.org project that Soileau chose to support.
Soileau is a vocal supporter of DonorsChoose.org and encourages educators to continue to use the site to fund much-needed projects in their schools.
“Tell everybody ‘Use DonorsChoose,’ ” he said. “I look to help a fund, and when someone sends back a card appreciating what you’ve done for them, it just makes you want to do more.”
For Wax, the support received through DonorsChoose.org has been wonderful.
“The School Board did a great job of getting us desks and pencils and paper, but it’s the things that make the class go smooth — the things that make the class interesting or make the learning fun — that DonorsChoose was really able to get us and get it to us quickly. It was just amazing,” he said. “We’ve had over $160,000 donated to this school through DonorsChoose.”
To find classroom projects to support, visit donorschoose.org and search by teacher, school or location.