Helping Classrooms Thrive: An Interview with Teacher Josh Montero


Advancement Courses has been partnering with the online charity, DonorsChoose.org, since 2015. Each year, we donate 10 percent of all sales during each back-to-school season to help students and teachers in need. This year, from August to October, we were able to donate $38,929 to 252 different projects to reach 32,834 students across the nation.

One of the teachers we were able to help through this year’s campaign is Josh Montero, who teaches fifth grade at Van Buren Elementary School in Stockton, California. His project, “The Science of Art,” requested funding for a 3-D printer to allow students to draw models and render them digitally to bring them to life.

“Students learn everything better with connections, with something tying in to real life, something tangible, so with each of them able to draw their creation and see it actually become something they can hold and touch will allow me to teach them techniques of artistic representation [as] well as digital media,” Josh explains on his project page.

We spoke with Josh to hear his story about how the DonorsChoose.org 2017 campaign has impacted his classroom.

What motivated you to pursue this project?

Our school is surrounded by the housing projects, and we have some kids who are extraordinarily creative, but all believe that college can’t happen for them. To combat that, I wanted to put together a project to combine their creativity with some 21st-century skills and give them a chance to let them learn and experience things like design, 3-D rendering – things they would never dream of doing – in hopes that I can inspire some to see that with perseverance and hard work, they can take their curiosity and passion for something and make it into a career.

Why is artistic expression important for students?

Everyone has a passion inside of them, a fire burning for something that school so rarely allows to be unleashed. There have been studies that show exposure to music and the arts improves kids’ ability to think and learn.

Being able to take their creativity and learn the technological skills to bring it to life, wow, how can that help but engage and inspire students? Our job isn’t just to teach. For kids to be successful we must inspire our students to want to learn, and the arts and hands-on projects like this are extraordinary for that.

How do you plan to use your project materials in the classroom?

We are starting with our drawings this week now that our materials have arrived, and should be able to begin rendering next week, and hopefully starting to print out student designs before long.

What impact will this project have on your students?

My students will be able to develop their drawing and art skills, as well as begin to develop some digital media skills. Students will have to take their drawing and 3-D render it using Tinkercad.com, and then make sure their designs match their drawing and is a size that can be produced by the 3-D printer.

How does it feel to have your project brought to life?

It’s incredible. Not one of my students has internet at home, and less than half my class even have TV, so these are kids who aren’t on the cutting edge of anything. This is a huge part of why I want to inspire them to see there is more out there.

Our district is very large, and there isn’t another fifth-grade class in the district that learns robotics, computer programming, and digital media and design. For the first, and for some of them, maybe the only time in these kids’ lives, they ARE the cutting edge. Knowing they are able to have experiences beyond anything they imagined makes it clear that these kids, who the system has overlooked and all but forgotten, really DO want to learn, and to explore, and to be challenged, and that warms my heart to see.

What’s next for your class?

I have been humbled by the support of our community and those who stand behind DonorsChoose.org and so I have some robotics and music projects we will begin soon. I am a huge believer in the power of music, and have put together a couple projects to get our class some digital music tools to allow them to not just learn music, but in its most modern and contemporary form.

Advancement Courses is proud of our 2017 partnership with DonorsChoose.org. Thanks to you, we were able to fund projects that help teachers across the country improve learning outcomes for their students. You can follow us on Facebook and Twitter or sign up here to be notified about future funding opportunities, get our newsletter, and more!

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