ROSCOE VILLAGE — Christmas came early for a whole lot of teachers this week when Google's charitable arm fully funded all special education-related "Donors Choose" requests posted by schools in Cook County.
Donors Choose was founded in 2000 to create a space where teachers could post their classroom needs online and any interested individual could donate funds toward the project.
Representatives from Google made the announcement Tuesday during a surprise assembly held at Lane Tech College Prep High School.
Among the wishes that came true: Lane Tech music teacher Javier Payano received more than $1,800 to purchase instruments needed for the school's Music Leaders class.
According to Lane's Donors Choose proposal, which was created by fellow Lane music teachers Mark Carrera and Paul Carrera, the class is "geared for our students with profound cognitive disabilities and recognizes that students with disabilities have the capacity to participate in music experiences at a variety of different levels of engagement," the proposal read. "Each of these students is paired with a regular student and encouraged to participate in music learning at their own level of ability."
"This funding means that all of our students will have access to curriculum and instruction that meets their needs," said Lane Tech Principal Kathryn Anderson.
"The adaptive music program is just one wonderful example of how we use differentiated instruction to engage and support students with diverse learning needs and styles — in this case through the power of music," she said.
The news comes just months after many Chicago Public Schools received word their special ed budgets were being cut. Teachers from across the city posted their thanks to Google on their Donors Choose pages.
"I am beside myself!" said Mary Mendoza-Ramirez of Saucedo Scholastic Academy in Little Village, who had requested technology that would help students with learning disabilities.
"I just told my group of students with special needs the great news and they are thrilled that someone out there really cares!" Mendoza-Ramirez said.
Alison Kool of Galileo Scholastic Academy on the Near West Side was ecstatic to receive materials for her students with autism and emotional disabilities.
"I can't fully express my joy, excitement, and thanks for your donation to my project," Kool said. "I am truly grateful for your support to education and specifically to the students that I teach."
For the last year, Google has been in the midst of global initiative — Google Impact Challenge: Disabilities — that's earmarked $20 million to support the use of technology by people with disabilities to increase their independence, according to Andrew Dunckelman of Google.
Any special ed-related project that had been posted to Donors Choose at the time of Tuesday's announcement was funded, Dunckelman said.
He's in the midst of a seven-city roadshow with Donors Choose, with Chicago being the fifth stop."The need is substantial," Dunckelman said.
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