Texas A&M grad launches idea to empower special needs students

SPRING, Tex. (KBTX) -- A teacher from College Station is changing lives near Houston.

Shelby Winder just started her career as a special education teacher in Spring, but the Texas A&M University graduate's curriculum is what has everybody talking. Winder has high hopes for her students at Grand Oaks High School. She knows their way of learning is different than everybody else's, but that doesn't make them any less capable.

"Yes, they all have different abilities, but what I want people to see is that, even though their abilities are so different, they absolutely can hold jobs," Winder said.

Many students landed their first job at The Grizzly Bean. It’s a coffee shop on wheels. Winder interviewed every student and assigned them all positions.

"We wanted something where they could learn employability skills, learn how to communicate with people, practice their social skills, learn and work through errors,” Winder said.

"The kids love this because they get to own what they do. The job titles they have, they hold it near and dear to their heart," she said.

Her students prepare the cart and coffee all week long to serve it up on Friday mornings. Some of the students, like Kailee Chatman, have already set goals for after school.

"I want to work at Starbucks!" Chatman said.

It’s not just the hot cup of coffee that lights up the teachers in the mornings, it's the students' energy and passion for what they're doing.

"This is so important to me because I know this is so important to them. This is going to build the foundation upon which they grow and blossom and become productive members of society," Winder said. "I just love these kids with everything I’ve got, they're my pride and joy. I just love them."

Winder said she hopes to keep paying it forward by the district implementing the same program in the intermediate and elementary schools, too.