People Are Loving This Special Ed Teacher’s Brilliant Coffee Cart Business For Her Students

by Kim Wong-Shing
Kim Wong-Shing is a staff writer at LittleThings. Her work spans beauty, wellness, pop culture, identity, food, and other topics. She is a contributing writer at NaturallyCurly, and her work has also appeared in HelloGiggles, Lifehacker, Wear Your Voice Magazine, and other outlets. She grew up in Philadelphia, attended Brown University, and is now based in New Orleans.

Being a great teacher isn’t always about having tons of experience. Sometimes, it’s all about what’s in your heart.

Special ed teacher Shelby Winder just started her first year of teaching at Grand Oaks High School in Texas. And already she’s spearheaded a project that has the potential to help countless students.

Shelby’s friend Chris Field, the author of Disrupting for Good, shared Shelby’s story in a Facebook post, which has since gone viral.

“Meet my friend Shelby,” Chris’ post began. “This is her first year teaching Life Skills (which includes students with significant cognitive impairment in conjunction with adaptive disabilities) at a high school just outside Houston.”

Chris explained that Shelby came up with a brilliant idea to empower her students: a traveling coffee cart. The cart allows Shelby’s students to walk through the school, take orders from staff, then deliver the orders each Friday. Shelby calls the coffee cart business The Grizzly Bean.

By running The Grizzly Bean, students practice “social skills, communication, working through their shyness, and even learning how to run a simple business.”

Amazingly, Shelby funded the project out of her very own pocket.

“It’s obviously a great teaching tool and one that will give them skills and lessons to carry far beyond this school year,” Chris explained.

And if Shelby meets her goal, The Grizzly Bean’s impact won’t stop at her own students.

Shelby Winder is a special ed teacher at Grand Oaks High School in Texas. She works with “students with significant cognitive impairment in conjunction with adaptive abilities” in a class called Life Skills.

This is Shelby’s first year as a teacher.

But her dedication to her students is already making headlines.

A friend, Chris Field, shared Shelby’s story in a now-viral Facebook post.

“Shelby came up with the brilliant idea of wanting to empower her students this year in some way that was meaningful and would outlast their time with her in the classroom,” Chris wrote. “So she started buying all of the things they would need to start a traveling coffee cart. This would allow her students to walk around to each of the teachers and staff in the school and take their orders and then deliver their coffee to them on Fridays.”

The idea is not only fun but also practical and useful for Shelby’s students. The business is called The Grizzly Bean.

Shelby used money from her meager first-year teacher’s salary to fund the project.

But when Chris, the author of Disrupting for Good, heard about what Shelby was doing, he helped her recoup her costs and encouraged her to “keep dreaming big.”

“Her students have now been at this a couple weeks already, and she says they are absolutely loving it,” Chris said.

His Facebook post about the experience now has over 25,000 shares.

But Shelby’s goals for The Grizzly Bean don’t stop at Grand Oaks High School. She wants to use the profits from the coffee cart to invest in similar projects at other high schools.

She hopes to see a ripple effect of empowering businesses for special ed students.

Shelby’s work is causing quite the stir online.

People can definitely see how starting a business is a great project for a Life Skills class.

Fellow educators are thrilled by Shelby’s idea.

One language arts therapist even called the idea “AWESOME.”

And people are even more impressed by Shelby’s determination to spare no expense in making her vision come true.

Shelby’s students are definitely lucky to have her as a teacher.

The kids are learning vital skills for their future, thanks to The Grizzly Bean.

With The Grizzly Bean growing in popularity, many people are wondering how to support Shelby’s project moving forward.

But instead of donating money, Shelby is encouraging people to “go into a school nearest you and ask to speak with an Administrator or Special Education Teacher and share with them the story of The Grizzly Bean and discuss ways to get one up and running in their school!”

Now this is paying it forward.