ASHBURN — When Amani Abuhabsah started teaching science at Dawes Elementary School, she knew kids learned best from hands-on activities but when she struggled to find money to pay for those projects she began posting on an online fundraising site for teachers.
The outpouring of donations from DonorsChoose.org was "amazing" and helped pay for 114 projects for the fourth- through eighth-grade science teacher, from Lego kits to materials needed to dissect an eye, she said.
Before posting on the website, Abuhabsah said she'd buy materials with her own money, "or I'd have to be pretty creative with a pen and paper, which is not as exciting for kids."
"I’ve done so much through DonorsChoose," said Abuhabsah, who estimated she's received around $100,000 in additional funding from the website. "Because of the projects, it's inspired me to do more for my students, provide them with more research skills to make learning more meaningful for them."
On Thursday, teachers like Abuhabsah got good news when Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that Google and Staples would contribute some $260,000 to fund all Chicago Public Schools projects on the website.
The estimated donation will fund about 450 projects, as well as pencils, papers, books, 3-D printers, instruments and field trips, among other things.
"Everything that you asked for... every project that the teachers put on to help their students learn, exceed and excel here in the city of Chicago, you now have fully funded," Emanuel said to a large round of cheers from parents at Dawes, 3810 W. 81st Place, which has already had 700 projects funded through DonorsChoose.
"This helps us achieve the goal. This is one goal ... making sure you have what you need," he said. "The goal is to make sure every child in every neighborhood has the education they need, to make sure we have the resources there so that we have an ever improving graduation rate because we have one goal as the city of Chicago that we're 100 percent college ready and 100 percent college bound."
CPS CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett called the gift an "incredible blessing," facetiously asking the donors, "Where were you?" when she walked into her own classroom for the first time and the principal handed her "a roll of crepe paper, a package of construction paper and chalk."
"I know the shoes you walk in," Byrd-Bennett said to the teachers. "Every single day I really do know how hard you work and how you need the resources that you have."
For teachers like Abuhabsah, having the projects funded means keeping kids interested in learning.
"My students looks forward to coming to my classroom and doing various things and keeping it hands on," she said. "They’re inspired by it and they see science in a different light."
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