FORT HALL — Grappling with a classroom supply budget of only $75 per year, a group of teachers from Fort Hall Elementary School have found a gem of website - www.DonorsChoose.org  - that has helped them get thousands of dollars worth of books, equipment, furniture and other much needed supplies for their classrooms. DonorsChoose.org is an online charity for the classroom. Educators can go to the website and express their needs for their classrooms; individuals and companies from all over the world then review the site and donate money and/or supplies to whoever they want at their own discretion.
Fifth grade teacher Garth Carlson learned about the website from a colleague in Pocatello about four years ago and has since funded 62 projects for his classroom valued at $500 per project, with donations coming from all over the United States and as far away as Guam and New Zealand.
"This is a great way for teachers to get a lot of stuff," Carlson said. Most recently from the site, Carlson has received individual whiteboards with erasers and markers for all of his students to help cut down on paper usage. With no budget for science projects, Carlson said he has also obtained some great science equipment such as temperature probes, light monitors, gas pressure sensors and even a state-of-art telescope.
"I'm not 'super teacher' or 'super writer'; anyone can do this," Carlson said. "I just stay on top of it and work hard to get what we need."
Second grade teachers Fred Anderson and Rebecca Hocking learned from Carlson and have also been successful in getting things for their own classrooms from DonorsChoose.org
Anderson, who didn't even have a projector in his classroom until one was donated from DonorsChoose.com last year, said, "the district doesn't give us money to buy new books. This website has really helped. We've gotten thousands of dollars in new books and even some Kindles and Nooks."
Hocking said she was able to get a brand new table and chairs donated to her classroom.
Carlson said that all personnel and classroom requests are carefully verified by DonorsChoose.com to weed out any potential scam artists.
While some donors choose to identify themselves, others remain anonymous, Carlson said one donor, a woman in Illinois, has gotten to know the teachers and students at Fort Hall Elementary from their requests through the website.
"She's donated a lot of money and supplies to us," he said. "As a thank you, we've sent her a handmade Native American beaded purse and homemade dog biscuits for her dog."
DonorsChoose.org has been endorsed by celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, actor Zac Efron, political satirist Stephen Colbert and former U.S. Senator Bill Bradley.