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Morning Coffee Helps Teach Essential Skills

Nov. 22, 2021

A splash of caffeine in the morning helps everyone jolt up for work. For some Lindbergh elementary school students, coffee is also the catalyst to learning essential skills that will help them throughout their lives. Long Elementary School has the Kindness Cart and Dressel Elementary School has the Dresso Espresso Coffee Cart; both serve coffee, tea and snacks for teachers and staff. 

The carts are supervised by each school’s speech and language pathologists. They benefit students by promoting the development of essential skills, including communication, expressive language, math and social skills. Specifically, the carts help students with responsibility, sharing, following routines, greetings, responding, eye contact and more.

Our goal is to raise the students’ self esteem and give them confidence,” said Long speech and language pathologist Carolyn Hopfinger.  “Additionally, we want them to gain life and work skills, a sense of belonging in the Long community and a sense of pride.”

Long’s coffee cart started five years ago, and Dressel’s coffee cart started in the fall of 2019 with a grant from the Dressel PTO.

“I wanted to start a coffee cart because I saw an area of need with our essential skills students,” said Dressel speech and language pathologist Amy Scherrer. “They were learning life skills, sequencing, and social skills in the classroom, but they did not have a way to practice these skills in a real-world setting.”

“I saw an opportunity for these kids to practice their skills in a real-world environment, target their job skills goals, and feel a sense of accomplishment and responsibility all at the same time,” added Scherrer.

The skills these students are learning are essential to everyday interactions.

“The coffee cart helps students to develop life skills in a unique way,” Scherrer said. “They are practicing how to interact with adults and peers, follow a routine, respond to changes in their environment, and take on special responsibilities.”

Hopfinger said the Long coffee cart helps staff and students see the value that her students bring to the school’s community.

“They may learn and communicate differently, but they are still kids who want to belong and want to make people happy,” Hopfinger said. “It puts the kids in a positive light and allows them to interact with staff members that they typically don't interact with.”

In addition to learning essential skills, the coffee cart is something the students look forward to, according to both Hopinger and Scherrer.

“My favorite part is seeing the kids' faces light up when they walk into my room on Friday morning and realize it's coffee cart day,” Scherrer said.

It’s just as fun for the staff supervisors.

“They look forward to it every week,” Hopfinger added. “To see the kids be successful in something is so exciting. They literally walk taller because of working on the coffee cart.”