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Donor pays for items on wish lists of Buffalo-area teachers

Students at International Prepatory School on 14th Street got laptops to work on projects on music composition and theory.

Those at School 81 in North Buffalo received headphones for the computer lab and teaching materials for math and reading.

And high schoolers enrolled at McKinley got a classroom printer.

The laptops and other items were included in the wish lists of local teachers – and Lockport native Chris Sacca paid for it all.

Sacca, a Silicon Valley venture investor and owner of Lowercase Capital with ties to Buffalo, was among some 60 celebrities, business leaders, athletes and philanthropists from across the country – including Stephen Colbert – who joined forces for #BestSchoolDay to fund classroom projects through The site lets public school teachers upload projects they want to be funded. Donors then go online to contribute as little as $5 or bankroll a whole project.

Financing classroom projects is priceless, organizers said.

“We all remember special days at school, whether it was going on a field trip, doing a science experiment or performing in a school play,” said Charles Best, founder and CEO of in a written statement.

“Teachers have a hard time providing these experiences when they have to go into their own pockets to buy school supplies.”

Last week, donors notified teachers from across the country who received money for their wish-list projects.

The money will pay for many other school-related activities and needs, such as field trips, books and supplies.

“The kids love getting new things,” said Breanna Burke, a special-education teacher at School 81 on Tacoma Avenue.

Sacca paid for five projects that Burke requested, including math baubles that students can touch and manipulate while learning math. The baubles are useful “because just seeing it on paper is difficult for them.”

The class received math dice for extra practice, magnetic blocks to help pupils learn what certain numbers look like and magnetic fractions – or wedges – that provide visual representations of what fractions look like.

“It helps them to see where their answers came from,” the fifth-grade teacher said.

The funders for #BestSchoolDay do not disclose how much each donor donated because they want to emphasize that anyone can contribute a gift of any amount to help a classroom in need, organizers said.

Collectively, donors gave more than $14 million for 11,000 classrooms.

Locally, Sacca gave financial support to 103 projects throughout upstate New York, including 35 public and charter schools in Buffalo, one each in Grand Island and Cheektowaga and two in Niagara Falls.

Sacca’s Buffalo roots include a six-year stint as a student of graduate-level mathematics courses at State University of New York.

Sacca was not available for an interview.

Burke said her students are excited about the gifts.

“They think it’s amazing to see someone is actually giving this to us,” she said. “I tell them, ‘They know that one day you’re going to be out in the real world so they want to give you the best education we can give you.’ ”

Another venture investor, Theresia Gouw, fully funded 70 projects in other schools primarily in upstate areas in and around Albany, Saratoga County and Watertown.