Monica Brown, a special education teacher at North Springs Charter High School, helped create a school café operated by her students.

She was awarded “Teacher of the Month” by the Sandy Springs school for her work creating the café in October. “It was a huge project undertaking with hard work, determination and patience with this process,” she said of the project.

A teacher for 15 years, Brown is in her second year of teaching special education at North Springs, which created its CBI, or Community Based Instruction program, two years ago.

“I am extremely elated about the new CBI program here at North Springs Charter High School.  There are endless activities, programs and classes the students can participate in as a new high school student,” Brown said.

Q: Why did you decide to have your students run a café?

A: The Coffee Shop Program has been around in Fulton County for the CBI Program for some years. This program is designed to teach real life, functional, social, personal finance and transition skills to high school special needs students. The students operate a real business (a coffee shop) in the school. Students operate a cash register, make change, fill recipes, deliver coffee, restock, talk to customers, clock in and lots more.  There is no better way to teach job skills than to practice them in a real-world setting.  The Spartan Café Express is doing a phenomenal job this school semester.

Monica Brown stands with students as they prepare to cut the ribbon on the Spartan Café Express in November 2017. (Special)

Q: How is the café program going and how have the students responded to it?

A: The program is going great! The entire North Springs Charter High School is so excited about Spartan Cafe Express. The interaction amongst one another is exciting and friendships are made. The students have built great relationships with the other peer students. The staff and teachers are excited to receive their first cup of coffee and tea in the morning. This is such a wonderful delight in the morning. The students are loving it and excited!

This is really a historical moment for our students. They have left a legacy, that’s for sure. I get a joy to see them prepare coffee, deliver and greet staff members and teachers each day.

Q: Do you enjoy your role in the new CBI program?

A: I truly enjoy my role as the CBI lead teacher of my classroom. The CBI scholars are growing, learning and having fun at the same time.

I am extremely elated about the new CBI program here at North Springs Charter High School as the special needs population is growing within our communities. Now that the CBI program is up and running at North Springs Charter High School, students are able to go to their home school. There are endless activities, programs and classes the students can participate in as a new high school student. Students are learning and working towards building independence and employability skills while working in the coffee shop.

Q: What attracted you to teaching at first? 

A: After working with students and volunteering with the Special Olympics for several years as a recreation therapist, I later became interested to go back to school and pursue my Masters in Special Education as special education continues to grow within our nation and throughout our communities. I cannot imagine doing anything else. I have always had a passion and love for working with children and young adults with special needs. I see myself as a teacher, role model, friend and also a parent. I am truly living out my purpose, and wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Q: What do you want to see in your students?

A: I want to see my CBI students transition after graduating into a college, community college or even a work program to get started. I would love to see them working in the community by taking every job skill learned from my class.  I want to see them be successful in their career, skill or even managing in their own business.

Q: What keeps you going year after year? 

A: My love and passion for my students keep me going. They have a will to learn and succeed in their work as they continue to grow and glow each day. They have a spirit of not giving up. This is what keeps me going and wanting to teach them more the next following year.

Editor’s note: Through our “Exceptional Educator” articles, Reporter Newspapers showcases the work of some of the outstanding teachers and administrators at our local schools. If you would like to recommend a teacher or administrator to be the subject of an Exceptional Educator article, please email