A Helping Hand for Our Heroes

Teachers are heroes. They face tremendous pressures, from adapting to new education standards, to engaging a more digitally savvy generation of students, to addressing the needs of a larger population of special-needs students. Within a single school, teachers often encounter differences in poverty levels, parent involvement and student readiness.

Teachers are heroes because, through all of these challenges, they remain focused on their students, inspiring them to learn and tailoring instruction to their students' individual skill levels, all while adhering to new curricula. But many classrooms lack leveled libraries to help young readers, microscopes to inspire budding scientists, or instruments for ambitious musicians. These items are beyond reach to many teachers, no matter how important they are.

When I began teaching, my colleagues and I quickly realized that our students didn't have access to the same resources we had growing up. We knew there were supplies and resources that could help our students, but our school district simply couldn't afford them. We hoped there were people who would want to support teachers, if these would-be donors only knew what each classroom needed.

That realization led to the creation of DonorsChoose.org, a site where individual teachers can create classroom project requests asking for the specific materials they need and donors can fund the projects that most inspire them. Donors at every level -- from $5 to $5,000 -- can see exactly how those contributions are being used in the classroom.

Founded in 2000, DonorsChoose.org has reached 200,000 teachers and 12 million students. Many organizations help us close this education funding gap and, in the process, help unite communities and prepare our future workforce.

For example, the Chevron Fuel Your School program is a collaboration between DonorsChoose.org and Chevron that has provided more than $14 million of school supplies to classrooms since its inception in 2010. The program is kicking off again in 22 markets, and will donate $1 (up to $8.6 million) to help fund projects for local public schools when consumers fuel up with eight or more gallons at participating Chevron or Texaco stations during the month of October.

Just last year, the Chevron Fuel Your School program helped fund Ms. Ramirez, a teacher in Mission Viejo, Calif., with a creative solution to remove the language barriers she faced in the classroom. Her class is evenly split between English language learners and native English speakers, so she saw an opportunity to teach her Spanish-speaking students English, and her English-speaking students Spanish. I encourage you to watch her story.

At DonorsChoose.org, we share a collective responsibility to help teachers like Ms. Ramirez receive all the resources they need to be able to provide students with a world-class education. All of us have a way to help. We envision a nation where children in every community have the tools and experiences they need to get an excellent education.

This school season, let's work together to make this a reality for all of our classroom heroes.