When you think of a high school life skills class, the last thing that probably comes to mind is a bunch of kids pushing a mobile cafe in through the hallways. But one Texas special needs teacher has developed a pretty original way to get her students to open up and better learn to cope with their disabilities: she’s got them running their very own coffee cart. Shelby Winder came up with the idea after being assigned to teach a life skills class that was specifically meant for students with “significant cognitive impairment in conjunction with adaptive disabilities.” To the delight of everyone, the idea worked.
The students would take orders from teachers and staff members throughout the week and every Friday, the kids push the coffee cart around the school and make the deliveries to them. According to her colleague Chris Field, the activity has helped students “practice their social skills, communication, working through their shyness, and even learning how to run a simple business by calculating their expenses and profits.”
Meet my friend Shelby. This is her first year of teaching Life Skills (which includes students with significant…
Originally, the student-run business, which they called “The Grizzly Bean,” was entirely funded by Winder, but once the results of her experiment started becoming evident Grand Oaks High School eventually reimbursed her so that she could continue the experiment throughout the year as well. More amazingly, Winder did the whole thing on a first-year teachers salary. That says a lot given that the average salary for a teacher in Texas is only around $44,000 a year.
“Her students have now been at this a couple weeks already, and she says they are absolutely loving it. It’s obviously a great teaching tool and one that will give them skills and lessons to carry far beyond this school year,” Field wrote.
The response the coffee cart project has been overwhelmingly positive, and as far as Wilder is concerned, it shouldn’t stop there. She wants to take a part of the profit from her student’s coffee cart, and pay it forward to another school so that they can, in turn, implement a similar program.