That’s right. Henderson left her position as the director of special education for Nelson County schools to become a behavior specialist at Dunbar in 2011.
“It was a lower-paying job, but I missed the kids,” she said. “My dream was to see public education be more kid friendly in my lifetime.”
Henderson is putting that dream in to practice, sometimes it’s one student at a time.
Her charge was to identify which kids were underachieving. During the day, she works with a diverse group, including students in inschool suspension. Her students come from different ethnicities, socio-economic status, and different school subcultures, like athletes, techies, magnet students, etc.
One outgrowth of Henderson’s work is the Dunbar Den. She took a room off the library and converted into a student-run coffee shop. Her students furnished it with school hand-me-downs and wood tables and chairs built and decorated by the students.
From 7:30 to 8:20 a.m., students cash in tokens from teachers as acknowledgement of achievement or good behavior for a cup of coffee, tea or hot chocolate, all prepared and served by Henderson’s students.
After school starts, students stay to clean up and review inventory.
Running a coffee shop presents teachable moments every day.
“This is project-based, mastery learning where students who don’t typically come together learn to appreciate each other.”
Hannah Huffman, a Dunbar senior, is one of those students.
“It’s really cool to see students coming together,” she said. “I love working with Mrs. Henderson. She is sweet, understanding and knows how to work with all kinds of kids.”
That’s why Principal Rains hired Henderson. “She has brought an excitement and a sense of ownership to the kids,” Rains said.
“I want every kid to know they can define their success,” Henderson said.
“I hope every kid wakes up and is glad to go to school.”
That’s the case for Henderson.
Every day is as fresh as the coffee in the Dunbar Den.