By Heather Hall
Last school year, when our class was researching information for a project, I came across an article about a school back east that started a coffee shop. I thought, “Why not us?”
I took the idea and modified for my students. Instead of the coffee shop being done out of the classroom, I decided to have the students deliver coffee and morning treats to the different departments at Gompers. I was looking for a way to teach job skills, social and academic skills. I really wanted to make it a meaningful experience for the kids.
Each morning, my students set up a rolling cart with fresh coffee, muffins, bagels, flavored cakes, hot chocolate, and tea. For the students who run the store, it is an opportunity to learn some important life skills. The program provides students with moderate to severe disabilities a chance to plan, shop and sell.
Our class was not sure how people were going to react to the coffee shop, but it has been a huge success. Both staff and Gompers members in our program rooms come out into the hallways on school mornings when they hear that “The Very Gompers Coffee Shop” has arrived. The students are very excited to be going around and interacting with everyone. My students are learning how to count dollar bills in order to increase their purchasing skills and their understanding of how money works.
Last year, I did most of the shopping for the coffee shop each week. However, this year the students are going to Sam’s Club to get the supplies for the coffee shop. They have a great time getting the items on the shopping list and are learning more about the different facets of running a business.
Since we have started the coffee shop, I have seen such growth in the students — in confidence, in social skills, and in handling of money. For those reasons alone, “The Very Gompers Coffee Shop” is the perfect brew for my classroom.
Heather Hall received her master’s degree in special education at ASU. She is trained in the TEACCH Model and is working on becoming a certified trainer in both TEACCH and the PECS communication system.