A special coffee shop operated by special people
by Mark Ledbetter
Home Staff Writer
Looking for ways to get her special needs class more involved in the Childersburg High School activities, teacher Teresa Hartsfield came up with the idea of serving coffee to the faculty.

“Last year I noticed a special needs program in another state that served coffee at their school and decided to try to incorporate the idea for my students,” Hartsfield said.

“The business has really taken off, much better than I dreamed they would do,” she said.

Hartsfield said they decided on the name of the business, Cool Beans Coffee Shop, after she and the students “brainstormed” and agreed upon the name.

An immediate concern for Hartsfield was funding the program. “I sent out ‘begging letters’ seeking sponsors and received mostly ‘no’s,’” Hartsfield said, “but Bunn Coffee responded by providing a coffee maker and ‘air pots.’”

Hartsfield said Bunn also provided tips on how to make fresh coffee. “I guess they should know,” Hartsfield said. “They are in the coffee business.”

Hartsfield said she also took the check she received for winning last year’s Teacher of the Year award and used the funds as “seed” for the project. She said she then went shopping at Sam’s and bought coffee, filters, stirring straws, napkins, and other supplies.

Cool Beans Coffee Shop provides an opportunity for Hartsfield’s students to use and develop money, social, and reading skills she said. Orders are taken by her students or she finds them in her box in the teacher’s lounge.

The coffee is made after students arrive at school and delivered at 8:05 after the morning pledge of allegiance. Students delivering the coffee “glove up” and are out the door delivering their orders, a process that takes about 10 minutes, Hartsfield said.

The coffee is delivered on an old book cart used in the old high school library Hartsfield found in the textbook storage room. Hartsfield’s husband, Paul, modified the top converting it into a serving cart.

Cool Beans sells their coffee for $1 per cup and Hartsfield said they have three teachers with standing orders, each giving the class $20 up front.

Other teachers that haven’t ordered coffee will greet her students delivering coffee and encourage them with kind words and make a donation Hartsfield said.

With cooler weather coming Hartsfield said they plan to offer hot chocolate. After the first of the year plans call for serving a continental breakfast including muffins, pastries, and fruit with coffee Hartsfield said.

Principal Jesse Hooks said when Hartsfield first approached him with the Cool Beans project he thought it was a great idea. “I knew she was looking for a way to develop skills and get her kids involved in school activities,” Hooks said. “It is a way for Mrs. Hartsfield to provide them with skills to transition them into a career.”

“This is a great program for our kids and Mrs. Hartsfield is doing a great job with the program,” Hooks said. “And it funds their activities.”

“Teachers, like many professions, drink a lot of coffee,” he said.

Hartsfield said the students have taken pride in what they are doing. Initially she said she thought the project would be beneficial to her older students by assisting them transitioning into adulthood.

“The ninth graders wanted to participate and I realized all the class could benefit from the project,” Hartsfield said. “It provides a service to the teachers, but even bigger is the learning opportunity for my kids.”

Hartsfield said when they began making deliveries her students were looking back at her to tell them what to say and do. “Now they know, especially the three students making the deliveries,” she said.

Some of the profits the students put back into the business Hartsfield said. She said a few have suggested having a pizza party, a popcorn party, and even a bucket of KFC party.

Hartsfield said she teaches them to contribute some of the profits to others by supporting Toys for Tots. She said, “We are teaching them to give back to the community.”

Contact Mark Ledbetter at mledbetter@dailyhome.com
© 2012