Transition program breeds job readiness

Pictured, from left, Sarah Amann and Arreona Ray prepare the fruit cups for the teachers breakfast. (submitted photos)

Waterloo High School special education teacher Kristen Goeddel is excited about the progress her students are making in the school’s transition program.

Similar to the Columbia High School transition program, Goeddel initiated a weekly breakfast at the beginning of the school year where students in the program sell fruit cups and donuts to teachers every Thursday morning.

“This is a wonderful program that is teaching very valuable lessons including vocational, money and social skills,” said Goeddel, who is in her second year leading the program.

The customer service aspect of the breakfast is improving students’ social skills while handling the teachers’ money during sales transactions are teaching them financial skills.

Students are also learning the administrative responsibilities of running a business by sending order forms out via email, making grocery lists and purchasing food at Walmart, as well as washing and preparing the fruit.

“We’re simulating the jobs that they’ll do within the community,” Goeddel explained.

The transition program — which currently has 18 students enrolled — includes a vocational program where students with special needs can remain in the program until age 22 in order to prepare them to live and work independently.

Special education teacher Chelsea Adair and Goeddel share the transition program, with Adair teaching the academic core classes.

The vocational aspect, STEP, is known as the secondary transitional employment program and includes foods, functional math, adult living and career planning, among other items.

Adding the teachers breakfast, Goeddel said, was born out of the understanding that students need another stepping stone to prepare them to leave the program.

Goeddel said revenue received from the teachers breakfast goes back into the program.

For instance, the transition program includes activities such as going out to eat to train students to place their own order at a restaurant.

“Since we’re not trying to make a profit, we are only making $20 per week, but that’s still $20 more than we had,” she said.

Students began the breakfast selling only donuts but when sales slowed due to teachers’ New Years resolutions, fruit cups were added into the mix. The program has since had a week in which sales were doubled, causing excitement among the students.

“They love (the breakfast). They get really excited,” Goeddel said. “We actually doubled our orders. They were very excited to see that and figure out that 12 is twice as much as six.”

One student in particular enjoys the hands-on learning that comes from the weekly breakfast.

“We are learning how to become good employees so one day we can work in a store,” WHS senior Jonathan Williams said. “My favorite part of the program is putting together the fruit cups each week and delivering them to the teachers.”

Another exciting opportunity for the students includes working in the dining hall at Garden Place Senior Living in Waterloo. During their shift, students will sweep, wash dishes and bus tables.

“The residents have been great with the kids,” Goeddel said.

A campus store that was started many years ago continues as a part of the transition program, though Goeddel said business is slow at this time of year. She added that soccer season will bring back a lot of customers.

“We get a lot of people from the community that come in and buy things,” she said. “It’s cool that they want to come in and support us instead of the area businesses.”

The campus store is run out of the high school and includes t-shirts, sweatshirts, shorts, water bottles and other Bulldog-themed merchandise. Go to or contact for more information.

Down the road, Goeddel said she hopes to expand on the breakfast idea by including a lunch menu with an area set up like a restaurant.

“That’s still in the works,” she said.

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