A local Technology Middle School teacher was shocked to learn when she went to check her fundraising campaign page, eyes canvassing the screen, that in just four days the Rohnert Park community had helped to meet her goal of $266.
These small individual donations from the community will have a big impact for Mary Niederberger’s 6-8th-grade special needs class, which will now be able to purchase their very own rolling cart. This simple piece of equipment will be an essential tool in the class projects that Niederberger creates for her students.
Niederberger, who has been teaching at Tech for three years, said the cart will come in handy for her student’s interactive projects, which aim to encourage independence and peer and community interaction.
“I teach a moderate to severe special day class and so we do deliveries all over campus, we deliver mail to teachers and we bake every Wednesday, so we also deliver our baked goods. So having a cart helps my kids be as independent as possible which is what I strive for. It’s a big extra for my kids so I am really excited,” Niederberger said.
Niederberger got the idea to start the fundraiser from some of her friends and colleagues who have led successful projects for their own fundraisers. Donorschoose.org was the decided platform for the fundraiser and on Dec. 26 the project was launched.
“It was my very first Donorschoose project. I have friends that I did my undergrad with that have also done Donorschoose projects and theirs have been fully funded, so I thought I would give it a shot over winter break,” she said.
One donor, Catherine Hills even expressed her well wishes for the campaign in addition to making a donation. On the project page she wrote, “Good luck on your fundraising for your cart. It sounds like a great idea.”
Right away, donations started coming in and it only took six donors and four days to fully fund the project.
“I’m super excited that it was successful and funded through the community and my family members and it happened in a really short amount of time, I had advertised it on Facebook and I was hopeful,” Niederberger said. “My family is supportive and the teachers on campus constantly ask how they can support us.” And when asked if Rohnert Park lives up to its mantra of “the friendly city,” the Indianapolis native answered with a resounding “Yes!”
“Totally yes! I feel so supported from our community,” she said.
She also mentioned that she is excited for her kids to be able to call something their own and for them to be able to practice social and interactive skills and have an active and equal role at school when using the cart.
“Part of being a moderate to severe special day class teacher is I have kids that are blind, deaf, down syndrome, you name it. So mobility is sometimes an issue and some kids have high functioning autism, or are in wheelchairs and don’t have the same access and so having their own cart to push around and do deliveries really helps my kids feel included on campus… And it helps us practice our social skills,” Niederberger said.
Other aspects of the class curriculum also focus on fostering independence and self-determination. The class goes through a basic cooking, art and life skills curriculum in addition to the daily delivery projects.
As far as future fundraisers, Niederberger hopes to use Donorschoose.org — which is open to all public schools across the country and has funded over a million school projects, once again.
Since the first campaign was such a success, the class will soon start another fundraising project, this time centered around raising money for purchasing sensory tools like play-doh and water sensory beads.
“As a teacher in a low-income, high poverty school district, my students are faced with several challenges both in and out of the classroom. Despite the many challenges they face, I am looking to keep things simple and provide my students with creative and meaningful learning experiences,” Niederberger wrote on her fundraising campaign page.