The couple's Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is fulfilling all existing requests on the crowdfunding platform DonorsChoose

By Rachel DeSantis
October 17, 2019 10:00 AM
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Credit: Chan Zuckerberg Initiative

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, launched by Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and wife Priscilla Chan to give back, has announced a $1.2 million grant benefiting hundreds of teachers across the country.

The gift will fund nearly 700 different professional development projects meant to empower teachers in 36 different states, according to a press release.

The projects were initially created by teachers on the nonprofit crowdfunding platform DonorsChoose, which allows educators to make requests for classroom resources that are then sent directly to them once enough money has been raised.

“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,” Chan, 34, said in a statement. “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.”

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) also announced that it will match donations to new professional development projects on DonorsChoose while funds last, and will also provide teachers access to NeuroTeach, an online tool that allows them to work the latest education research into their own classrooms.

The million-dollar grant will fund projects that cover various different topics within the education realm, including mental health and the building of teacher resource libraries.

Among the many teachers who will reap the benefits of the grant is Madeline Mason, a mindfulness and social learning coach at three different public middle schools in Indianapolis.

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Mason tells PEOPLE she’s been working with DonorsChoose for about seven years, and has used the platform to pay for everything from books to various resources for her classroom.

She posted her latest project — books and journals to better support teachers in their mindfulness practices — about a month ago, and learned last week it would be covered by CZI.

“Teachers are just really overwhelmed and in general, just aren’t in a good brain state or a good emotional state,” Mason says. “It’s really hard for teachers to support our students holistically in their academic and social/emotional needs if they are not regulated.”

Mason continues, “My vision for this project is to share resources with teachers and small cohorts of teachers so that they can have mindfulness strategies and regulation strategies to work on their own regulation and their own issues that they’re dealing with … so that they can support students.”

Mark Zuckerberg, Priscilla Chan

Other projects that’ll also be covered by the CZI grant include an elementary school teacher in San Francisco who wants to attend a literary conference, and a middle school teacher in Baltimore looking to become board-certified.

“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,” DonorsChoose founder Charles Best said in a statement. “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.”

Education is a cause near and dear to Chan’s heart, as she co-founded a nonprofit private school in East Palo Alto, The Primary School, in 2016.

She and Zuckerberg, 35 — who married in 2012 and share two young daughters — launched CZI in 2015, pledging 99 percent of their wealth to causes with a focus on “science, education, and justice and opportunity,” according to the organization.