Secret Santa: Anonymous donor spends $600,000 on classroom wish lists for Dallas teachers

Photo by Elliot Munoz. Winnetka Elementary teacher Ms. Estrada reacts after learning her project was fully funded by an anonymous donor.

Christmas came early for hundreds of north Texas educators after a secret Santa spent $600,000 on teacher projects listed on an online donation website.

The anonymous donor fulfilled classroom wish lists on DonorsChoose.org at 361 schools in 19 independent and charter school districts, including Dallas, Richardson, Mesquite, Addison, Garland, Irving and others.

The money went toward projects ranging from $150 to more than $2,000 at schools of all levels. Some schools, like Winnetka Elementary in Oak Cliff, revealed a sampling of the funded projects Tuesday during assemblies.

At Bryan Adams High School, the gift went toward nearly $1,500 of books to help to English-language learners increase their reading endurance and fluency. And at J.L. Long Middle School, $1,900 was given for upgraded mouthpieces for beginning band students.

On each fully funded project page, the donor left a message that read:

While you don’t know me, I know the good work you do. You’re a teacher, a pillar of the community too! Your classroom is where you devote your whole heart, growing young minds to be thoughtful and smart. For all your hard work, this gift is meant to inspire, to spread holiday joy and help you acquire the things that will help your students succeed!

—From a Mystery Friend (in exchange for another good deed!) #SpreadJoy #DFWMysteryFriend

Many teachers responded with messages of thanks to their new friend.

“Your donation will not only help our current students but future students at our school,” said Lidia Loarca, a first- and second-grade bilingual teacher at William Lipscomb Elementary School, who received money for bean bag chairs and privacy partitions for a classroom reading center. “I can’t wait to share pictures and stories of our students utilizing the materials! You inspire me to do more as an educator.”

In addition to the one-time gifts, the donor provided another $100,000 in challenge grants for others to match. The contributions will help pay for new teacher projects submitted after Tuesday’s announcement.


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