Oct 17, 2019 · 4 min read

Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Backs Teacher-Directed Professional Learning with DonorsChoose

$1.2 Million grant has automatically funded nearly 700 professional development requests made by 600 teachers on DonorsChoose. CZI is also matching donations to new teacher professional development requests.


The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) announced a $1.2 million grant to DonorsChoose designed to empower teachers through the funding of professional learning projects that reflect the diversity – and aspirations – of classroom teachers nationwide. The grant automatically funds nearly 700 professional development projects that 600 teachers across 36 states have identified for their own continued learning. Secondly, the grant also provides access to Neuroteach Global, an online professional development tool that helps teachers and school leaders translate the latest research on how students learn into their own classroom practice, for teachers who would like to use the resource. In addition to funding all current teacher professional development projects and providing access to Neuroteach Global, CZI is matching donations to new professional development projects on DonorsChoose, while funds last. 

The public can support a classroom today and have their donations doubled as a result of the match from CZI. And teachers looking to make the most of CZI’s match offer can visit donorschoose.org/teachers to create a new professional development project to share with their social network. CZI and DonorsChoose are also encouraging teachers to share why teacher professional development is so important using the hashtag #SupportTeachers.

“As an educator, I know that teachers want professional development opportunities to both improve their instructional practice as well as meet their immediate needs in the classroom. That is why we’re partnering with DonorsChoose to help teachers apply the latest findings on how students learn best within their classroom practice and funding the individual professional development asks of teachers across the country,” said Priscilla Chan, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of CZI. “We’re excited to support more learning-science-based tools, like Neuroteach Global, in the classroom and power projects that individual teachers know will make a real difference for their students.”

According to recent research, nearly all teachers report wanting effective, ongoing, relevant professional development opportunities – with 84% wishing they had more professional development tailored to their needs.  

“Professional development allows me to grow my knowledge, expand my skill set, re-evaluate my teaching methods, share experiences with my peers, and learn from other educators. I walk away with new teaching strategies that I can immediately implement into my classroom to enhance student learning,” said Fernanda Garofollo, a middle school teacher at John Ruhrah School in Baltimore. 

Examples of the kinds of professional development projects funded through the the $1.2 million grant from CZI include attending professional conferences to learn improved literacy instruction practices to increase student achievement to obtaining certification in teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL)  to training in instilling mindfulness, social-emotional learning and kindness in students to building teacher resource libraries

“We see that teachers are willing to ask social networks for support funding classroom materials, but are often reluctant to seek funding for their own professional development,” said Charles Best, founder of DonorsChoose. “This grant gives hundreds of teachers the chance to invest in themselves, turn research into practice, and stay ahead of the curve in a dynamic, challenging profession. These teachers will use the skills they learn to help thousands of students across the country achieve.”

Since DonorsChoose first expanded to include professional development projects in 2015, more than 10,000 projects have been created by more than 7,500 educators. Professional Development projects are among the slowest growing project categories, as teachers are more likely to request resources for their students over development opportunities for themselves. 

CZI’s education work is focused on ensuring that every student —not just a lucky few—can get an education that’s tailored to their individual needs and supports every aspect of their development.  Part of that work is focused on supporting research, programs, and organizations that work to advance the understanding and science of how students learn and develop, and support the pivotal role of teachers in supporting a student’s academic, mental, physical, emotional and cognitive development.  CZI has partnered with the Deans for Impact, the Center for Transformative Teaching & Learning, Jefferson Education Exchange and others in this work.

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