Thinking outside the box for today’s students

CCHS third-year special education teacher Ms. LaMarche in her classroom.
CCHS third-year special education teacher Ms. LaMarche in her classroom.

Each year, teachers throughout the South Colonie Central School District look for ways to contribute to their students’ success in the classroom. Whether it’s gaining access to instructional materials, accessing engaging projects to follow their curriculum or obtaining additional supplies to reach a child’s potential – – district teachers go above and beyond for our school community. Teachers continue to place learning and engagement as a priority and the results are crucial to success in today’s classroom. Meet Taylor LaMarche. Ms. LaMarche is currently a third-year special education teacher in the Colonie Central High School. Recently, she utilized a donor-focused program that allows teachers the ability to request funds for their classroom to get students engaged about the content they are learning.

Developed in 2000, Donors Choose allows individuals to donate directly to public school classroom projects. The main purpose of the site is to allow teachers a venue to create projects to be funded for things like books, classroom supplies, experiments, technology, field trips, guest speakers etc.  If a project is chosen for funding, the teacher will receive the materials at their school and are required to share “thank yous” & photos of the donated materials being utilized in the classroom. This process provides a stewardship report for donors to see how their funding is supporting a child’s academic success. To learn more about this unique nonprofit organization, here.

Ms. LaMarche got interested in Donors Choose during her first-year teaching in the district in 2019. For her first funded project, she was approved for basic items she requested to assist her in modifying her outreach with students. For this request, she received typical classroom supplies such as glue sticks, scissors, colored pencils, markers, dry erase markers and pens.

“Donors Choose really helped me out my first year teaching by donating supplies to my classroom so my students could create their own projects and interactive notebooks,” said Ms. LaMarche. “The opportunity to increase engagement for my students is critical to their success. I find it rewarding for them to experience the curriculum in a creative format and that translates to the overall classroom experience. There’s no price tag for that type of result.”

CCHS student participating in a project-based science experiment in Ms. LaMarche's classroom.
CCHS student participating in a project-based science experiment in Ms. LaMarche’s classroom.

During the past two years, Ms. LaMarche has been redesigning her math and science curriculum for her students. With Donors Choose, she has been able to receive curriculum ideas for both courses, while creating innovative activities for students to participate inside the classroom. As part of the process, she has requested supplies for her science class to allow them to become immersed in project-based experiments.

The concept of utilizing a donor-based platform to assist with materials/curriculums is not a new concept for districts across the nation. Over the past few school years, Ms. LaMarche has been able to obtain funding, but it should be noted that not all projects receive funding or support. In addition to nonprofit organizations like Donors Choose, there are additional organizations that are willing to donate and fund a teacher’s project. For Ms. LaMarche’s recent projects, particularly with science, the materials she has received have been from individuals who donated to her classroom, because they want to see the engagement with science, specifically when it comes to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) activities. While some donors have been from the local community, there has been interest from larger organizations such as the 3M Foundation and Emerson Collective to collectively support science initiatives across the country.