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This Texas Teacher Is Using a Traveling Coffee Cart to Empower Special Needs Students

Southern Living logo Southern Living 9/13/2018 Meghan Overdeep
a person standing in front of a building © Facebook/Chris Field

She’s only just begun her career as a special education teacher, but Shelby Winder is already making waves.

The recent Texas A&M grad teaches Life Skills at Grand Oaks High School in Spring, Texas. She helps students with significant cognitive impairment and adaptive disabilities learn to live—and thrive—in a society that’s not necessarily always geared towards their needs.

Looking for a way to get her students to open up and better learn to cope with their disabilities, Winder came up with a brilliant idea to showcase just how capable they are: a traveling coffee cart.

Throughout the week, Winder’s students take orders from teachers and staff members, and every Friday the kids push their coffee cart, “The Grizzly Bean,” around the school making deliveries.

"Yes, they all have different abilities, but what I want people to see is that, even though their abilities are so different, they absolutely can hold jobs," Winder told KBTX.

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According to her friend Chris Field, who first shared Winder’s story in a now-viral Facebook post, 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.”

Originally, The Grizzly Bean was funded entirely by Winder and her meager first-year teacher’s salary, but administrators reimbursed her after seeing the positive results. Now she plans to continue the experiment throughout the year, Yahoo reports. With any luck, Winder will give the profit from her student’s coffee cart to another school so that they can start a similar program.

"This is so important to me because I know this is so important to them. This is going to build the foundation upon which they grow and blossom and become productive members of society," Winder told KBTX. "I just love these kids with everything I’ve got, they're my pride and joy. I just love them."

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