Berkeley High School.

Last month a lot of teachers in California woke up to a good day. You may have read about it in the Chronicle — one immensely good Samaritan decided to write a very fat check and convert teacher wish-lists into reality.

Those teachers had used an organization called to let the world know what was missing in their classrooms — the sometimes little things that would help make a big difference for their students’ learning and that tight school district budgets couldn’t cover.

Then one day got a call asking founder Charles Best what it would cost to fund every California teacher’s wish list posted on the website. The answer was more than $1 million. A day later, a check materialized for $1.3 million written on behalf of the Claire Giannini Fund. The money covered the entire California wish list, 2,233 projects in all, and was among the largest gifts ever given by the San Francisco fund — and certainly one of the largest received by DonorsChoose.

Ben Sanoff, an economics teacher in the Academic Choice school at Berkeley High was one of the fortunate recipients. Sanoff had posted a request for two netbook computers — small laptops that his students could use to participate in the online part of his class’ coursework.

“Some of our students don’t have smartphones and in many cases are without internet or computer access at home. Since much of the economics coursework is web-based having the netbooks allows these students to gain technology skills as part of the course goal of achieving 21st century skills,” he says. Online access also enables students to check on real-time economics news and analysis, Sanoff says. He had submitted his request with the maximum budget allowed — $800 — and crossed his fingers.

“The next thing is I get an email saying I have been funded. Then the computers arrive in the mail,” he says. Needless to say Sanoff was thrilled. He only realized his request had been one of many to have been met through the generosity of the Giannini Fund later, when it was announced that many of his colleagues across California were beneficiaries. All the sponsored Berkeley projects can be viewed here.

And there’s good news for those of Sanoff’s colleagues who missed the boat this time of securing much needed teaching resources. Until the end of this month, DonorsChoose is  partnering with Chevron to channel $1 million to public schools in Alameda County and Contra Costa County. There is $14,000 available for Berkeley teachers and funding is growing by the day according to Nicole Velasquez, program manager at DonorsChoose. Read more about how to participate, whether as a donor or teacher, here.

Update 17.15: Berkeleysider Maureen Burke adds this useful information about another way to help local teachers: Berkeley parents can also nominate teachers for a $1,500 teacher of the month award given out by It’s very very easy to submit a nomination and every time I’ve nominated a teacher they’ve won the award. No paperwork to speak of, no strings, teachers just get a call from 826 and then they receive a check to spend in any way they choose.

Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...