One Teacher’s Mission to Level the Playing Field

Workforce preparation efforts and strategies will only be successful if special attention is paid to the underprivileged and minority populations in schools.

by AT&T / November 15, 2019
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Christine Livingstone is a teacher at Brogden Middle School in Durham, N.C., a school with many low-income, refugee and English as a second language (ESL) students.

“I have a lot of students from the refugee camps that were closed down in Africa, and they’ve had very little schooling,” says Livingstone.

Livingstone is a strong proponent of using creative projects to help motivate and energize her students. For years, she compiled lists of projects she wanted to do or things she needed in her classroom. For a while, she purchased many of those “extras” herself. But when she added up her expenses at the end of one year, she discovered she had spent close to $3,000.

“That was a substantial chunk of my income,” Livingstone says. “I used to think maybe I should get a job on the weekends at McDonald’s — I could earn the money there and stop feeling guilty about it.”

But then Livingstone discovered DonorsChoose.org, a program supported in part by AT&T through its Aspire initiative, that connects public school teachers with donors willing to help contribute to creative educational projects.

“DonorsChoose.org allows me to have those extra things without working a second job,” says Livingstone. “My kids now have unique opportunities. There’s not a lot of times when they’re on that side of things.”

To date, Livingstone has devised and received funding for close to 300 DonorsChoose.org projects, including projects that encourage kids to master coding and math skills and rewards them with things like camping trips.

Workforce preparation efforts and strategies will only be successful if special attention is paid to the underprivileged and minority populations in schools. Today, more than half of public school students qualify for subsidized meals because of low family income. At Brogden Middle School, DonorsChoose.org has been critical to help build educational equity.

“If a student is 14 and they’ve never been in a school before, you can’t give them the same type of a curriculum designed for the average seventh or eighth grader and expect that they’re going to go on and do well in high school,” says Livingstone.

But participating in unique, hands-on projects motivates Livingstone’s students and helps gradually improve their skills and desire to learn.

“There are so many ways my students have been able to see the world in a different way because of DonorsChoose.org,” says Livingstone. “Things like a fish tank or a carnivorous plant collection or hatching praying mantis egg cases — those things engage them. Their world is already lacking in so many ways. DonorsChoose.org allows me to dream up cool projects and then enables me to deliver them to my students to keep them engaged and learning.”

To inspire educators and the private sector to help prepare students for the future, download the guide: “Leading the Future for Students, for Educators, and in Technology – Transforming education today to build the workforce of tomorrow.” Click here to learn more.

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