Anonymous donor from Alabama comes up big for Tozer Primary School teacher and her classroom
February 8, 2014
According to the DonorsChoose.org website, in 2000, Charles Best, a New York City public school teacher, spent a lot of time in the teacher’s lunchroom, talking with his fellow teachers about the books they wanted their students to read, the art projects they wanted their classroom to do, and the field trips they wanted their students to take. They didn’t have the funding to do these things, so Best founded DonorsChoose.org out of his classroom. In 2007, DonorsChoose.org expanded to serve every public school teacher in the United States.
Public school teachers such as Tozer Primary School teacher Tracy Kelley post classroom project requests on DonorsChoose.org. Its website said requests range from pencils for a poetry writing unit, to violins for a school recital, to microscope slides for a biology class. Potential donors can browse the requests and give any amount to the one that inspires them. Once a project reaches its funding goal, DonorsChoose.org sends the materials to the school.
All donors hear back from the classroom they supported with thank you notes and photos. Anyone can give as little as $1 and get the same level of choice, transparency, and feedback that is traditionally reserved for someone who gives much more money.
Since 2000, the DonorsChoose.org community of 800,000 donors has channeled $105 million into classrooms in need and benefited 6.2 million students.
— T.M. Fasano
An anonymous woman from Alabama played Santa Claus on Christmas Eve for a Tozer Primary School preschool teacher and her students.
As a result of her generous donation and three other donors, the preschoolers at Tozer are enjoying a colorful ladybug learning rug valued at $500. The rug includes the alphabet and numbers from 1-10 that correspond to the ladybugs and is filled with bright colors ranging from red, green and blue to orange, yellow and purple.
Tozer preschool teacher Tracy Kelley, who was responsible for submitting the request to DonorsChoose.org for the rug, said a rug in a preschool classroom is like a community center for her 3- to 5-year-old students.
She said her students were excited when the new rug arrived.
"We use that rug for more things than I could even begin to tell you," Kelley said. "We have circle time on it every day. We sing songs, read stories and talk about our day. I have pictures of kids on this rug building block towers, magnet play, using a Lite-Brite, dancing, doing movement activities. It's a very integral part of the preschool classroom, kind of our gathering place. When kids come in tears in the morning, I sit over there with them and hold them in the rocking chair at the rug. We use it for so many things. We do a lot of learning on that rug. To some people it might be, 'Well, it's a rug.' But it's a huge part of our classroom that we use a lot."
Tozer Principal Shelly Prenger said the new learning rug is not only aesthetically pleasing, but it's an important tool for learning.
"I think it has just a ton of benefits to it. I really give kudos out to Tracy for putting that out there," said Prenger, a former preschool teacher.
Kelley said she had seen on a teacher's Facebook page something about the DonorsChoose website.
"At that time over the summer I set up an account. In the back of my head I was thinking it would be really cool to try and get something for the classroom someday," said Kelley, who is in her seventh year of teaching at Tozer. "I've been wanting to get a rug for the classroom forever, but they're terribly expensive. I set up the web page asking for the rug for the classroom, and I honestly forgot about it. I've been wanting to get a rug for probably four years. Those teacher rugs are just so pricey because they're made to be very durable."
DonorsChoose.org is an online charity for people who want to help students and their teachers with items needed in the classroom or for a project. Public school teachers post classroom project requests on the website, and a donor can give any amount to the project that interests them.
When a project reaches its funding goal, the materials are shipped to the school. Donors will receive photos of the project taking place, a letter from the teacher, and insight into how every dollar was spent. Anyone giving more than $50 will receive hand-written thank you notes from the students.
Kelley said she had three other smaller donations but didn't think she'd ever get enough donations for the rug.
"On Christmas Eve, I woke up in the morning and someone had funded the entire remaining amount and just sent me a note that said Merry Christmas. I woke my husband up. I think I was checking my emails at 5 o'clock in the morning," Kelley said. "I know her name is Susan and she's from Alabama, and she just said 'In honor of Mr. and Mrs. Calvin' is why she made the donation. I really wonder why she chose that project to fund. I wonder if those were her parents and they were preschool teachers or some sort of teachers. I wonder what it was about this particular project that made her fund it. I wish I could ask her. They gave me her first name and where she's from, and she did write a personal note saying that she hoped the rug helped out the classroom and the students."
Kelley said the rug was $547 including tax and shipping. The woman from Alabama donated about $360.
"I looked up her DonorsChoose profile and it shows that she has funded a couple of hundred projects, which is amazing to me," Kelley said. "I'm just very curious about how she chooses the project and what makes her do something so special."
Another donor who lives in Windsor and said she taught kindergarten for five years donated a generous amount and two others donated money for the rug. One donor said her sister went to Tozer in 1976.
As part of the thank you process, Kelley made a YouTube video titled, "As the Old Rug Unraveled" and features her students opening the rug, dancing on it and enjoying the new rug.