EXETER–After a joint donation was made to DonorsChoose, an online charity and crowdfunding website, more than 250 teacher projects across the state will be fully funded. The donations were made by the Partnership for Rhode Island and Theresia Gouw, a board member of the Corporation of Brown University and DonorsChoose. 

In total, $131,648 was jointly donated to the various projects, serving nearly 25,000 students statewide. 

Among the many projects fully funded was Michelle Bucacci’s, a primary school teacher in Exeter who sought donations to purchase flexible seating options for her students. 

According to its website, DonorsChoose, which was founded in 2000, seeks to empower public school teachers throughout the country to “request much-needed materials and experiences for their students.”

The Rhode Island Department of Education said that the joint donation offered for this initiative goes “above and beyond what is currently listed on DonorsChoose.” Additional projects will be funded through the donation in the near future. 

In total, more than 100 schools in 24 districts in Rhode Island will benefit from this donation. Projects address everything from literacy to social and emotional learning, including projects like adding culturally responsive texts to libraries, buying instruments or technology for students, bringing robotics into the classroom and more.

Bucacci, a second-grade teacher at Metcalf Elementary School, said she was requesting donations for flexible, collaborative seating products that would allow students to “take charge of their learning and make the choices that work best for them.”

“During independent work times, they choose a location in the classroom that works for them,” Bucacci wrote on her DonorsChoose page. “Currently, my students are choosing to work in a variety of locations in our room such as: at different tables, sitting under tables with clipboards, or sitting or lying on the floor with a clipboard​.”

The flexible seating options–such as softer, more comfortable seating, various desk and table arrangements, and much more–allow teachers to arrange spaces that can fluidly change throughout the day, supporting a wide variety of independent and cooperative learning activities. 

“The products that I have selected will help my students by giving them additional seating options to make more effective learning choices,” Bucacci said.

Making sure students are comfortable, Bucacci added, is an “essential component in motivating them.” 

“I have noticed amazing differences in my students when they are given a choice in their seating,” she said. “They almost always make good choices about where they sit, are more engaged, and get more work completed than when they are just sitting at their desk.”

According to Bucacci, all of her students have “unique and varied ways in which they learn best,” making flexible seating options an important addition to the classroom. 

“Which is why I vary my teaching strategies during the day, whole group, small group, blended learning activities, and centers,” she continued. “They are a great group of children and I am very lucky to start off this year with these students who are so excited to learn.”

The project goal, which was met last week, totaled just over $600. 

“I have seen how choice can positively affect my students’ work and demeanor and hope that the additional options will help us grow even more,” Bucacci concluded.

Tom Giordano, executive director of Partnership for Rhode Island, said the organization was “incredibly proud to support Rhode Island’s educators.”

“We hope this contribution will help teachers check one item off their to-do lists as they continue to work tirelessly to provide their students with an engaging learning experience,” Giordano said. 

And Gouw said Rhode Island teachers “invest a tremendous amount of time and effort in the lives of their students every day, which has a ripple effect on the community.”  

“I believe in the power of education and the difference having access to the right resources makes in raising up the leaders of tomorrow,” Gouw said. 

 The founder of DonorsChoose, Charles Best, added that the support from Partnership for Rhode Island and Gouw will “help teachers across Rhode Island give important learning opportunities to their students and provide them with classroom resources to learn, explore, and grow.”

“We’re so grateful for the generosity of Theresia Gouw and the Partnership for Rhode Island, and I hope teachers throughout the state will be thrilled to learn about this surprise funding today,” Best said. 

Finally, Rhode Island Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green said that donations like the Partnership for Rhode Island’s and Gouw’s make teachers “wishes come true” and enhance “learning opportunities for thousands of students.”

“In Rhode Island and across the country, teachers spend hundreds of dollars of their own money to make their classrooms more welcoming and their lessons more engaging,” Infante-Green said. “I see this firsthand when I visit schools, and I hear consistently from teachers that they are reaching into their own pockets to pay for supplies, books, and experiences for their students.”

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