Schools are filled with all kinds of diverse learners, including some students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) that give them access to extra learning resources. Support for students with special learning needs varies. Many learners with IEPs are integrated into the same classrooms as other kids. But sometimes, if a student needs more individualized attention, he or she will be part of separate classes for some or all of the school day. That set-up can sometimes make it hard for those children to feel part of the broader school community.

When one San Francisco teacher, Sadie Guthrie, recognized that few teachers at the public middle school where she works knew her special needs students, she came up with a plan. She didn’t want the separate classes that her students need for learning to unintentionally segregate them from the rest of the school. So she launched a coffee cart staffed by her students. Now, her students often interact with adults in the building and the local businesses that contribute to the coffee cart. The¬†students¬†practice being responsible and working together.

SoulPancake made a beautiful video about the project, the students and one very dedicated teacher. Check it out.

  • Sandra Oliver

    What an inspirational teacher and program. I am sharing this with special ed teachers I work with NOW:)

  • Sumpepandwong

    Great story and film. Would be even better if the journalist used people-first language.

  • Alyssa Barr

    High Five Sadie! Thank you for expecting the most out of each individual you work with! I am so proud of you and of each one of your students. My dad dedicated his career to working in Special Education. As a child it was ingrained in daily life that we are all people with different abilities. Challenges manifest in different ways for different people and regardless of these challenges we all have something to offer. As a teacher myself I know how challenging it can be to have an idea and know that it is something that will evoke change for the better and then see the idea into reality. You inspire me!

    Alyssa Barr
    UCDS, Seattle

  • Banani Chowdhury

    Hi Sadie,…couldn’t control my tears while watching your video. Thanks a lot, this will inspire me to undertake my challenge as I have just started my Special Ed course. Regards

  • Celeste Pryke

    I teach Maths to special needs students and your video inspired me to try this project. I have always completed fun measurement projects with the students, but I decided to use this for our Budgeting project. I bought a second-hand coffee machine and we make and sell coffees to the staff. Students prepare a budget each week and then use our receipts to prepare a cash flow. They are absolutely loving the project, so thank you so much for the inspiration!


Katrina Schwartz

Katrina Schwartz is a journalist based in San Francisco. She's worked at KPCC public radio in LA and has reported on air and online for KQED since 2010. She's a staff writer for KQED's education blog MindShift.

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