Listen. We love a story about a fabulous teacher. Even better is when that story involves coffee. And when snacks get involved? Come on, now.
Chelsea Anderson-Ball, an assistant principal at Prairie Winds Middle School in Mankato, Minnesota, posted in our Principal Life Facebook group about how a local company recognized an exceptionally dedicated teacher on her staff. Check out the sweet story below:
Of course, we wanted to know more about how this all went down! Gratefully, Chelsea was willing to give us the scoop.
Tell us a little bit about your school. How long have you been a principal there?
I have been an assistant principal at Prairie Winds Middle School since last year and was the dean prior to that. This is my fourth total year in the Mankato Area Public School District.
What can you tell us about this special teacher?
Kristin Edwards is the textbook example of a teacher that will do anything for her students. She has been at Prairie Winds as a Life Skills teacher since 2019 and not only provides the academic components that her students need, but the nurturing, understanding, and creativity that it takes to ensure students that are primarily in her classroom throughout the day still feel included and known throughout the building. Outside of her own classroom, she is also a huge advocate for each and every one of our Prairie Winds students. She serves as a member of our PBIS team, is integral in the success of the athletic concession stands from which the funds are used to keep our student PBIS store going, and is routinely popping in with new ideas and ways that she can envision her students being involved in our everyday activities or special events.
How did this idea start?
Kristin was searching for a way to help her students feel more integrated into the school community while also building their communication, task management, and real-life money math skills while practicing routine. Cups of Kindness, or as it’s more commonly known in our building, “Coffee cart!” meets each of those needs. While the cart started in a few places within the building, it’s grown to be building-wide (and we have a huge building!). As one of two administrators in a building with just under 1,000 students, we are BUSY! Although we try to get to all areas of the building to greet students and check in on classrooms, it’s rare we make it into places that do not have a behavior concern popping up. Because Kristin’s room runs smoothly, we are not in the Life Skills classroom often.
However, with the coffee cart, I now get to see Kristin’s students every day. For the first time since starting at PWMS, I not only see her students, but I get a chance to have actual conversations, see their excitement to be out and about, and check in on the amazing paraprofessional team that helps Kristin and her students keep the cart going.
How has Cups of Kindness positively impacted your school?
Cups of Kindness is quite literally the cart that brings sunshine and energy into every wing of the building, every day. The students come in to help prepare the cart (restock, organize, etc.). They then take turns rolling the cart throughout all of our wings along with one or two of the paraprofessionals from their team. The cart comes around every single day! This past week, the cart made a special visit to our Veterans Day Ceremony, where veteran and community guests could grab coffee on their way in. They also brought the cart personally to the ROTC battalion of soldiers that were there to post and retrieve the flags.
How did Heavenly Hunks get involved?
Heavenly Hunks is owned by a Minnesota local named Casey Webber. Casey has been a silent supporter of Prairie Winds Middle School families for the past several years. He has anonymously donated money for families facing homelessness to be housed in local hotels until apartments are available, sponsored Christmas presents for multiple families for multiple years, and sent money for grocery orders to be sent to families facing food insecurity—there’s no other way to say it than that Casey Webber has used his successes to spread comfort, joy, and support to those that need it most, in some of their deepest moments of crisis, and all while asking for zero recognition and complete anonymity. He is one of the most pure human beings that I know.
Late this summer he reached out and asked what Heavenly Hunks could do, specifically for teachers in Mankato, Minnesota. He has several employees that live in our area and wanted to make a local impact. Who in our building needed something that he could support? My mind immediately went to Kristin and the coffee cart. Casey and his team were immediately on board once they heard about the purpose of the cart. They gave Kristin an unlimited budget and complete freedom in the design of the cart.
While Kristin knew about the cart itself, she didn’t know that Casey wanted to stock the cart top to bottom with all new gear, nor that he is going to finance everything that the cart needs to run for the next two years. It was important that Kristin be involved in the design of the cart, because she knows the physical needs of her students best, but we wanted to keep the financial support a surprise.
Was the cart reveal a surprise? Tell us everything!
The cart reveal was the BEST surprise we have ever pulled off and it was a full-team effort. The cart took a few months to build, because it had custom features for the safety of Kristin’s students. The longer it took for the cart to arrive, the better, because I think somewhere deep down, Kristin expected the new cart was too good to be true, and that she hadn’t heard anything because the idea had fizzled out. It was in full gear, behind her back!
A huge thank-you to Kristin, Chelsea, Casey, and everyone else who had a hand in this sweet story.