An idea found on Pinterest has turned into a way transition students at J.Z. George High School can learn social skills, business skills, how to create interpersonal relationships with students, teachers and staff, and allow teachers to take a break and enjoy a cup of coffee or a cinnamon roll before getting back to teaching.
And because not all of them are mainstreamed, it gives teachers a chance to get to know them as well. The coffee, hot tea, sweet tea, water and treats are only for teachers, faculty and staff. They’re charged a $1 for a drink and $1 for treats.
The cart is set up, with the exception of the coffee, and managed by the students themselves. Not only does it teach them social and business skills, it teaches them sanitary methods, how to work with measurements, and learn how to multi-task -- all of life skills they will use in the near future.
Nancy Fortenberry said she saw an idea on Pintrest about creating a coffee cart for transitional students, and thought it would be a great idea to start at J.Z. George. She said when they first started, it wasn’t a set schedule, it was when they were able to do it.
Fortenberry said this year, with the help of Don Richardson, they were able to set a schedule. The cart goes out on Wednesdays and Fridays.
“On Wednesdays, we have salty snacks, like Chex Mix or trail mix. Then on Fridays, we have sweets,” Richardson said.
Many teachers are fond of the cinnamon rolls that are on the cart on Fridays.
“Everything that we have, it comes out of our pockets. It isn’t in the budget for us to do it,” Fortenberry and Richardson said. But, they said the money goes back into the classroom and benefits the students.
“It helps us pay for field trips,” Richardson said. “We’ve taken a lot of field trips this year. We took one to Milwaukee Tool, and we got to see a lot of the work they’re doing with robots. And we went to Wendy’s. I think they enjoyed going to Wendy’s more than they did the tour.”
He added that it helps cut costs of the students riding the bus and paying for their meals. He said he’s seen his students improve since participating in the coffee cart project. Richardson, who’s in his first year of teaching special education, said his students get to show their individual personalities while providing a service.
“Our teachers don’t have a teachers’ lounge, they don’t have a coffee pot. They don’t have anywhere where they can sit down and relax. So, it helps them as well,” Fortenberry said.
Richardson added that the teachers like the interaction as well.
“Some of the students ask ‘Can I get a coffee?’ And, we tell them no, it’s only for the teachers. And we have a charge notebook, if they don’t have any cash on them or are busy and can’t get to their wallets, we let them charge it. We know where they are, and they’re always good about paying, so we don’t worry about it,” he said.
Takeydrua Duren, Cullen Jenkins, Michael Cotton, and Excel Carr all said they have fun doing the math cart and they’ve seen the improvements in themselves. Not many in the class were willing to elaborate on it, but Duren. Richardson said it’s their favorite thing to do.
He said his students also take science and math mainstream, and it gives those teachers an opportunity to get to know their students as well.
“It’s fun, and we get to learn math,” Duren said. “And the teachers like when you smile at them.”
He said each week the students rotate on who would work the cart. Last Friday, Duren and Carr worked with Fortenberry and Richardson.
“Excel doesn’t like knocking on the doors, but Takeydrua does. She has a bubbly personality and she doesn’t mind,” Richardson said.